Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Speech Gets Dissected!

Matt KramerPublic Speaking3 Comments

I’ve been seeing a lot of speech critiques lately. With the political chicken-wings flapping around, I guess I can understand why.

One on Hillary Clinton. Another on Michelle Obama. And don’t forget about Donald Trump.

Well, I’ve had just about enough of that! The only thing those kinds of speeches are good for is if you want to watch the same person debate themselves. You know, “I’m against this!” Then, 4 years later they’re saying “I’m for this!”



It’s time to analyze a TRUE master of public speaking: Stone Cold Steve Austin

Yep, he's a professional wrestler, or an entertainer if you will. Some might call wrestling fake, but I prefer to take a "believe what I want" approach—like a kid and Santa. 

Believe what you will about wrestling; however, his public speaking skills and his ability to entertain an audience, are anything but fake.

For today's critique, I decided to go with his WWE Hall of Fame induction speech from 2009.

First, I’m going to go down the line of everything he did right, with with video examples. Then, at the risk of getting a Stone Cold Stunner, I'll list some things he could have done without

1. Knowing When To Shut Up

When Stone Cold’s fabulous theme song and his fists-pumping-in-the-air session ends, he goes and stands behind the transparent lectern. But notice he doesn’t just start talking.

Why is that?

Glad you asked. I’ll tell you why, it’s because the audience was still slapping their palms together in admiration. Some (including me) were even chanting “Thank You Austin!"

It’s not uncommon for speakers to try and talk over the noise of either an applause or audience laughter. Both are less-than-intelligent things to do. It’s okay to stay quiet and let the audience clap or laugh. Don’t trample over a good time. Understood? Good.

One thing to notice is that he eventually had to take back control, otherwise they would have never let him get a word in. It’s a safe bet that we probably aren’t going to have that same problem (except if it's heckler's night). 

2. Sincerity

Being sincere is a must when you speak. There are too many fakers these days, too many template or robotic speakers.  

In this part of his speech he talks about selling tickets and events, and loving every minute of it. He talks about how it made him feel. You can see it in his facial expressions and how he stumbles over his words a bit—that’s sincerity.

Be like Stone Cold Steve Austin. Be vulnerable and be sincere.

3. Funny Stuff

What’s a good speech without humor? Exactly. You better believe the Rattlesnake brought humor. Several times.

But here’s a nice example that I paraphrased: “Broken neck. Divorce. Blow your knee out. Another divorce.”

Find places to add humor. I don’t care who you are, this should be high priority when developing your speech.

Here’s a good rule to go by: If they ain’t laughing, they ain’t listening (at least not for very long)

4. Audience Involvement 

He involved the audience by using a powerful tool called “gratitude.” When you give people a sincere "thank you" and acknowledge them, they’ll love you for it. Maybe even clap like they did for Stone Cold.

Another way he involved them was by sort of asking a question: “If you’re ready for Wrestlemania, give me a HELL YEAH!”

They participated.

5. Who Doesn't Love A Good Story?   

Stone Cold starts off with an anecdote about the Men’s Wearhouse. Pretty bold calling out a well-known company. I like it.

He also gave a nice story about figuring out what he wanted to be for a living:

The story also happened to be funny. Double whammy.

6. Good Ol' Props   

He used some props during his speech. He is an entertainer after all. Not to mention wrestling usually involves and even encourages its fair share of props (a steel chair to the face?).

One was particularly memorable because it was like his signature move not named the “Stone-Cold Stunner.” He had a tendency to shotgun cans of beer—minimum of two. Demonstration below. 

7. A Masterful Call-Back    

Discussed earlier in the audience involvement section, one of the techniques he used to do that was actually a significant call-back.

He had several catchphrases that he used throughout his career and one of them was this: 

“If you’re ready for [fill in the blank] / If you want [fill in the blank], GIVE ME A HELL YEAH!”

Now, this wasn’t a call-back in a traditional sense. Normally when you think of a call-back, it’s calling back to something that was said earlier in the same speech (or at least something that happened at the same event). This one was a call-back to his career. It works because everyone in the audience is well versed in the language of Stone Cold Steve Austin.

If you have raving fans and a cool catchphrase, you can use this technique, too.

7. Strong Closing    

His closing  was a combination of a career call-back AND a catchphrase. It left no room for argument. In fact, it was THE BOTTOM LINE. Just watch it below...

The "Bad"

Filler Words 

Mainly "Ums." Meh. I'm pointing it out just because it has the potential to distract the audience. In his case, I feel they contributed to his sincerity. 

"You People"

He said "You people" instead of just plain old "You." [video link] I think it actually fits his personality of being a rough and tough S.O.B.; though, without a celebrity status like his, it could be asking for trouble. "You people" can get framed in a negative way real fast. Of course, context also plays a factor. 

Facial Expressions Mismatch

At one point, his facial expressions didn’t quite match the words coming out his mouth (see video). 

This was likely humor, though, because Mr. Austin is a badass who hardly smiles. This could be dangerous for you, unless the audience already knows your personality.

The Bottom Line...

I'll tell you what, this brings back some good childhood memories. The glass breaking intro music which pumps me up to this day, the beers tossed down the hatch, the catchphrases, boy oh boy. 

Now take his lead and implement some of these techniques in your next speech. The audience won't be disappointed...unless you don't bring enough beer for them.  ​

What did you think about Stone Cold Steve Austin's speech? Let me know in the comment section below. Oh yeah, SHARE this post while you're at it!   

About this guy...

Matt Kramer - Tactical Talks - Public Speaking

Howdy! My name is Matt Kramer and I used to suffer excruciating death when speaking in front of a group, now I LOVE it. Overcoming this fear has changed my life and it can change yours, too. My focus is to help you overcome the fear of public speaking so you can build the confidence to go after what you want in life.

  • Bill Burns says:

    Good points! It’s also cool to see how the techniques of successful speaking aren’t just for TED talks or the boardroom, but for all of us, everywhere — even if speaking isn’t our main job description. Thanks, Matt!

    • Matt says:

      Exactly. Most people think they’ll never need to learn public speaking because they don’t plan on giving a TED talk. Simply not true.

  • Bill Burns says:

    Oh, you know DASS right!