David Henderson, David Brooks, Darren LaCroix and just about every other speech coach alive have a favorite movie scene. It’s not from a particularly great movie and it isn’t acted in a particularly great way but it carries the message that everyone in the communication business wants to communicate.

What it is it?


It’s the recording scene from the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line.

That great scene when Sam Phillips, the record producer stops Johnny Cash in the middle of a gospel song to tell him that he can’t sell more gospel music. It’s actor Dallas Roberts’ only scene in the movie and he steals the show when he tells Joaquin Phoenix who’s playing Johnny Cash it isn’t that he can’t sing or that there’s anything wrong with gospel music but that there’s no feeling behind his words.

Sam Phillips tells Johnny Cash:

Bring… bring it home? All right, let’s bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing *one* song. Huh? One song that people would remember before you’re dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin’ me that’s the song you’d sing? That same Jimmy Davis tune we hear on the radio all day, about your peace within, and how it’s real, and how you’re gonna shout it? Or… would you sing somethin’ different. Somethin’ real. Somethin’ *you* felt. Cause I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear. That’s the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain’t got nothin to do with believin’ in God, Mr. Cash. It has to do with believin’ in yourself.


Every communication expert loves this story because it captures the essence of a good presentation. Before we can make our message resonate with anyone else, we have to believe it ourselves. Our hair has to be on fire to share our message with our audience in a real and authentic way before anyone can buy into the words we say.

The next time you have to make a presentation, no matter where you are speaking, think of these words before you put pen to paper. I always tell my clients that there’s no such thing as a bad audience, only bad presenters. The only sure fire way to avoid being a bad presenter is to talk about something important to you in a very real way. With enough passion behind you, even the most boring subject can come to life. It’s simply up to find it.



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