How to make your next speech unforgettable with the Blueberry Technique

Updated to Business on December 27, 2022.

It happened four years ago and I never saw it coming.

I was listening to another speaker, waiting my turn to present, when I witnessed an otherwise boring topic being delivered brilliantly.

In fact, it was done so masterfully I’ve been using his advice every day since.

But, it wasn’t so much what the speaker said…it was how he said it.

Before I get to that, let me ask you this:

What is the number one goal for any speaker?

  • Is it to entertain people?
  • Motivate them?
  • Teach important lessons?
  • How about telling great stories?

Yes! All of those are goals (at least they should be), but the #1 most important goal for any speaker is to change behaviour.

Our goal is for our audience to make some small change in their behaviour that, over time, will make a big change in their work and their life.

Pretty lofty goal, but that’s the gig.

Back to my story…

Here’s what this speaker did: he teased us.

This is how his opening sounded:

“Today I’ll be sharing 10 ways anyone of you can improve how your brain works. All of these come from scientific research that proves our brain can change – if we know what to do.”

Okay so far, this is pretty rote stuff I would expect from any speaker: make a promise that builds anticipation.

But then came the clincher.

“And at the end of the talk, I’m going to tell you the one, single food that will immediately improve your brain’s functioning. And I think it’s going to surprise you!”

I was hooked.


Sure, I wanted to learn the “10 ways anyone of you can improve how your brain works.” After all, I am an anyone.

But, no way I was going to miss out on the “single food that will immediately improve your brain’s functioning.” That’s what I want – a shortcut.

My pen was out. I was leaning in. The bathroom could wait.

About halfway in, he again mentioned he would be sharing that one titillating secret.

As we were winding down to the end of the hour, he teased us one more time.

“I know you’ve all been waiting for that one food that will make all the difference. I’ll get to that in just a few minutes. First, let’s summarize…”

The tension in the room was palatable—we all wanted to know what was the big secret?

And then it came.

The one secret.

The one we had all been waiting for…


Okay, okay, my guess is you weren’t knocked off your seat by this incredible revelation.

But here’s the point.

It’s been 4 years since I heard that speech and for the life of me, I don’t remember any of his 10 solutions. But I still remember blueberries are good for the brain.

And, even more importantly he changed my behaviour—ever since that day if I can get my hands on Blueberries they’re going in my morning smoothie.

Now let me ask you:

What does your audience remember from your latest speech? Maybe it’s time for the Blueberry technique. You can use the same technique with PowerPoint (or Keynote for my fellow MAC lovers).


It works like this:

When you have a punchline in your lesson, add a reveal feature to your slide. So your audience sees the punch line to the lesson, but the keyword (usually an adjective) is covered up.

I use this when teaching about perceptions, or what I call “Windows on the World.” The lesson is about judgements and perceptions and how they influence our decisions and relationships and I’m building up to the solution.


Just like most solutions in positive psychology, my “solution” is not earth-shatteringly exciting either.

So, I use the “Blueberry” technique.

Shortly after getting into the lesson I announce I will be delivering a simple solution that could change their life.

A bit later, we play a fun game that proves how quickly we fall victim of our perceptions. Again, I mention I will be getting to the solution soon.

By now, everyone wants to know what is one action they can take to “open their Windows on the World.”

And then I pull up my next PowerPoint slide and the solution looks like this:

“Ask ________ questions.”

But before I deliver the punch line, I make sure I have everyone on board. Again, I revisit how our “Windows on the World” influence everything we do from our habits to our relationships, to our achievements and failures.

And then I reveal the missing word.

“Ask BETTER questions.”

Maybe it’s not the most exciting “solution.” But I know it’s a great solution if it sticks.

What about you?


Do you teach listening skills, customer service, leadership, or maybe advanced macrame? Can you use the Blueberry technique to make your lesson sticky?

If you use handouts, you can leave a blank for them to write the missing words (don’t overdo this – it can start to feel like a grade school exercise.)

And here’s the proof this works.

After my speech, when I ask people what is the one thing they will do differently, the most common response is to “ask better questions.”

That’s my Blueberry.


Want more tips on delivering great presentations?

9 stupid things speakers do on stage

10 easy ways to make any PowerPoint presentation awesome

How the experts create world-class PowerPoint Slides (and you can too)

How to add video to PowerPoint and Keynote like a pro

PowerPoint Primer – the only 3 slides you’ll ever need


By the way, there are two simple ways to make that “reveal” technique work in PowerPoint or in Keynote.

  1. Simply create two slides: one with the missing word, the next one with the full sentence.
  2. Or, maybe you have more than one sentence and each has words you want to reveal. In that case, write out all your sentences and then add a box over each word you want to reveal (you can easily match the color to the background color of the slide) and then use Animate>Build Out on the MAC or Animations>Exit Effect.