Where Great Stories Come Alive: Enjoy the Anatomy of a Speech – Part Nine

I was invited to deliver the opening keynote speech at the Toastmasters International Convention in 2001. In this 10-segment series, you view the anatomy of a keynote presentation.

“I’ve mentioned my brother, Robert Fripp, a couple of times. You may have heard of Robert Fripp. He has a group called King Crimson, and he travels all over the world teaching his guitar techniques.”

Lesson: Not all your stories are about you. Just have a connection.

“King Crimson was born in 1969. A couple of years ago, Robert had a one-man show series on the east coast. I went to spend some time with him, and after his performance on the first night, he got up and gave an impromptu speech. I think it was because I was there, and a lot of his fans knew me. He started with a very interesting approach that you might want to consider one day. For his first remarks he read a bad review from one of his performances, and he evaluated that review. Then he read a positive critique of one of his performances and evaluated that as well. Finally, he conducted Q&A with the audience.”

Lesson: This unique approach endears you to your audience.

“Have you noticed that some of the best ideas you get for your speeches come out of the Q&A in your sessions? That is what we are going to listen to for three minutes. You’ll find it will whiz by. Please listen very carefully because I’m going to ask you some questions. This was my brother, Robert Fripp. It was not scripted or rehearsed. Notice how conversational it sounds. He didn’t know what was going to be asked of him, but it is a story he has entertained his friends with, just as you have stories you entertain your friends with. He is answering this question: ‘Tell us about the time you met Jimi Hendrix.’ Let’s listen to his answer.

Lesson: Great ideas for good content stories come from Q&As.

Robert Fripp speaking

Robert:Yes, he did. Jimi Hendrix did shake my left hand. The gentleman mentioned the time that I met Jimi Hendrix. And if you would indulge me, I’ll tell you the story. From time to time, whenever Hendrix anniversaries are being celebrated, various guitar magazines or MTV ask me to comment on Hendrix.

Robert: “The single time that I met Jimi Hendrix was at the Revolution Club in Mayfair where Crimson was playing in 1969. It was the first time I sat down to play. I have always been a seated guitar player. To work in a rock group, however, you couldn’t sit down. No one sits down to play guitar. But I felt, after 12 performances by the ‘69 Crimson, that it was impossible for me to stand and play. So, I said, ‘Look, I’ve got to sit down.’

Robert: “Greg Lake said, ‘You can’t sit down. You look like a mushroom.’ My considered opinion was that the mushroom is a fertility symbol in many cultures. Even if I were seated playing, at least I could perhaps wave the flag. EG management bought a stool which was painted black and was placed on stage at the Revolution Club in Mayfair.

Lesson: Self-deprecating humor comes from what others say to you.

Robert: “Then, after the first set backstage, a man came up to me in a white suit with his right arm in a white sling. One of the most luminous people I’ve ever met. He came up to me and said, ‘Shake my left hand, man. It’s closer to my heart.’

Robert: “Now, in 1981, which was then 12 years later, King Crimson was recording Discipline at Basing Street Studio which is in the Portobello district of London. We were staying in the Portobello Hotel, known for the very, very small size of its rooms and its paper-thin walls. If the phone goes next door, as it did with Jerry Marotta, Tony Levin, in the next room, said, ‘You don’t need to answer that, Jerry.’

Robert: “I was walking to the studio, the Basing Street Studio just off Portobello Road, and there was a bookstore. Since I’m something of a bibliophile and eager to catch up with my latest reading, I went in. In the shop was Loretta Land. Loretta Land was Michael Giles’s sister-in-law, Michael Giles being the first drummer in King Crimson. We hadn’t seen each other for 12 years. I said, ‘Oh, let’s have a drink tonight at the Portobello.’

Robert: “She said to me, ‘Do you remember the time when Hendrix came to see King Crimson?’ And I said, “Of course, I do. It’s my Hendrix story.”

Robert: “She said, ‘Do you know that I was sitting at the table next to Jimi Hendrix?’ I said, “No.” She said, ‘He was jumping up and down and saying, “This is the best group in the world.”’

Robert: “In all due modesty, that is one of the best calling cards any working musician is ever likely to be able to present.”

“I asked you to listen carefully, even if you have no idea who my brother is. I want you to shout out the answers to this question. What year did he meet Jimi Hendrix?”

Audience: ‘1969.’

“What was the name of the club?”

Audience: ‘Revolution Club.’

“What part of London was it in?”

Audience; ‘Mayfair.’

“What color was Jimi Hendrix’s suit?”

Audience: ‘White.’

“Which arm was in a sling?”

Audience: ‘Right.’

“12 years later, when he meets his friend, what was the name of the hotel they stayed in?”

Audience: ‘Portobello.’

“It was memorable for two reasons. The first one was . . .”

Audience: ‘Small rooms.’


Audience: ‘Paper-thin walls.’

“My point, ladies and gentlemen, is that when you tell a story simply, with enough color and detail that people can see it, it’s easy to repeat. That’s what you want people to do. I hope you have noticed in the stories that I have told you that they have certain formulas: character, dialogue, and dramatic lesson learned, the Hollywood model.”

Lesson: We use words to communicate. Our audience remembers what they “see.”

“Patricia Fripp’s super-power is she can listen to a superb presentation and find ways to make it even better.” Krister Ungerböck, Author of Talk Shifts

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