A Business Leader’s Superpower

Martin Luther King had it. 

Ronald Reagan had it. 

Steve Jobs had it.

“It” was their ability to deliver a great speech. “It” was their superpower.

I believe that to succeed as a funeral home owner, you must be able to deliver a great speech. Whether you present to the public, function as a funeral celebrant, or lead team meetings, you want to engage and inspire your audience every time. 

Staring at a blank page trying to develop a speech can be daunting. However, there’s a secret to speech writing that I am about to share with you. 

The secret is to use stories. More specifically, use the elements of great stories. 

Here are the story elements that will help you create an effective speech.

  1. Define the controlling idea
  2. Start your speech with a problem your audience has
  3. Ask a story question
  4. Define the stakes
  5. Foreshadow a climactic scene
  6. Position yourself as a Guide
  7. Give the audience a plan
  8. Give the audience something to do (Call to Action)

Many of my clients are currently recruiting new staff members for their funeral homes. One of the things they have had to reconsider is their compensation plans to retain current staff and attract new employees.

I’ll illustrate the framework by outlining a speech introducing a new pay-for-performance compensation plan. The goal is to introduce a new bonus plan that rewards top performers instead of providing similar bonuses for everyone.

First, we are going to define a controlling idea. What is the one thing you want everyone to know when they are done listening to your speech? 

Example: The pay-for-performance program puts you in control of your paycheck.

Next, we will identify a problem our audience is experiencing. This will hook the audience from the start, and they will want to listen to find out if we can solve that problem.

Example: You’ve been sharing part of your bonus with people who don’t deserve it, and that is frustrating. You deserve to have your performance give you more control over your paycheck.

We will then ask a story question. This will be the question we want people to be thinking about throughout the speech. 

Example: How much more can I earn?

Next, we will define what is at stake if the audience doesn’t listen and act on what they hear in your speech.

Example: We lose the right people and attract the wrong people.

Then we will foreshadow a climactic scene. We want to show the audience what life will look like if they act on what we talked about in our speech.

Example: When you open your next paycheck, you can be proud knowing you deserve every penny and you’ve got a clear path to earn even more.

We then want to position ourselves as the guide to help them overcome the problem.

Example: We feel your frustration and know you want to be rewarded for your work while not resenting the coworkers who don’t pull their weight. Because of this, we’ve spent the last year researching the funeral industry’s most appreciated compensation programs. We want this to be a great place to work and the best place to build your career in funeral service.

Then we will identify a 3-step plan they can follow.


  1. Meet with your manager to set expectations and goals
  2. We conduct quarterly reviews 
  3. Your paycheck reflects your performance

Lastly, we will identify the clear call to action, so the audience knows what to do.

Example: Sign a commitment form, and let’s schedule our meeting.

I’ll insert the full speech below if you’re curious about how it all comes together.

The ability to deliver a great speech is a funeral business builder’s superpower. It’s also something that you can master by following this simple framework.

Until next time


Sample Speech – Introducing the new Pay-for-Performance Compensation Plan.

For years now, we have been giving out blanket bonuses which seemed nice but meant you could work harder than your coworker, and they would get the same bonus you got. Which wasn’t fair to you. (Problem)

What if you were in control of your paycheck? What if your paycheck actually reflected the hard work you put in every day serving families? (Story question)

It’s like all those group projects we worked on in school. Usually, one person carried the load, a few other people chipped in, and the rest went along for the ride. And everybody got the same grade! We believe that it’s not fair, and it’s time to reward the people who carry the load. (Agitate the problem)

I’m here to announce that we are moving from an arbitrary bonus structure to a pay-for-performance plan that puts you in control of how much you earn. You no longer have to share your bonus with people who are not doing the work. (Controlling idea)

And this isn’t just to reward you for all your hard work. It’s also to ensure that we continue attracting and retaining the right people in our funeral homes. Aren’t you tired of incentivizing the wrong people to stay and losing our best people because they are frustrated from working so hard and not getting what they deserve? (Stakes) 

Candidly, I understand. When I worked as a Funeral Director, I was so frustrated knowing I was not rewarded for all my hard work. Because of this, we’ve spent the last year researching the funeral industry’s most appreciated compensation programs and are incorporating those best practices. We want this to be a great place to work and the best place to build your career in funeral service. (Guide) 

Here’s how we’ll roll this program out:

Every employee will sit down with their manager and determine clear goals and metrics by which their performance will be reviewed. (Plan)

Then, each quarter you’ll have a performance review and discuss what you need to stay on track and hit your goals. At the end of each year, you’ll know that your paycheck reflects your individual performance and the value you provide.

To start this process, we ask that you sign this commitment form indicating you acknowledge this new program and are committed to seeing it through. We’ll do all we can as a leadership team to make sure you’re always clear on expectations and where you stand with your performance. Write down any questions you have so you can talk to your manager when you meet. (CTA)

Imagine when you open your paycheck a year from now. You can be proud knowing you deserve every penny and you’ve got a clear path to earn even more. (Foreshadow climactic scene)

Sign the commitment form, and let’s all grow together. Remember, at our funeral home, you are in control of your paycheck. (Repeat CTA and Controlling idea)

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