Jonathan Sprinkles -How To Get Great Testimonials (West Virginia University)


It was a classic power struggle. The bout was legendary. One even Don King would have been proud to promote. I could see him behind the podium, waving the American flag, saying, “Only in America.”

I circled this date on my calendar many months ago. This was going to be one of the ‘big’ dates for this semester. Normally, on organization within a college brings me in. It’s no big deal (to me, at least). I do my thing, make some people laugh, make them thing, then we go home. But this was different. I was on the WVU website as one of the headlining speaker for their Week of Engagement. I briefly considered hiring a trainer and a hype man.


To put it mildly, the showdown didn’t live up to the hype. The room was set up for 300. As you can see from the picture, about 95 showed up. This is normally a great number, but when 2/3 of the room is empty, the energy isn’t the same.

From the beginning, everything I tried wasn’t working. I tried the special intro. I tried the opening joke. I tried call-and-response. They seemed like the really didn’t want to be there. If I could have somehow finished my talk in five minutes, I bet I would have gotten a standing ovation; not for me, for the fact that they were ready to GO!

But we made the most of it. I literally felt my emotional energy and enthusiasm seep out after a few failed attempts to jazz up the crowd. Have you ever been on a date with someone who obviously wasn’t right for you? Do you remember how painful it was to strike up a conversation about…anything? Anything! That’s how I felt. But I was on the hook for another 50 minutes of “life-changing information.”

I am going through the rough parts of learning IMPROV. It’s as much of a science as it is an art. Sometimes it works out really well, but I’m not sure why. I still have parts that suck badly, and I’m not sure why. That’s the toughest part. Getting this thing to work is like solving a CSI case. I wish I had my IMPROV coach with me so I could ask her what the heck I’m doing wrong. It could be audience selection, order of the games, my role in the games, or my inability to turn a boring scene into a winner. There is so much that goes into what looks like an improvised show. I’ll get it though.

The talk went okay.  The WVU staff was great. I was flat. The audience was flat. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to get down when they didn’t respond the way I wanted them to. That’s a rookie mistake and I should have known better. There is always someone in the crowd who needs to hear your message. Someone who is absorbing every word you’re saying. Someone who actually is having their life changed because of your message. Quitting means you give up on that person. That ain’t cool.

But I did get some good punches in. Because I have a style that strategically drops lines in specific places in a specific order, no matter how badly things may seem in the heat of the moment, I will still leave people with content.  This lends itself to some great testimonials from the audience. They paid a lot more attention than I thought. They were quoting every part of my talk from the opening to closing. This proved that you can’t judge an audience based on how they look. People listen with their ears, not their mouths.

That said, I’m going to share with you a short formula for getting a winning testimonial versus one that won’t do anything for you in the future.

Here is my patented S3 Testimonial Formula…

A good testimonial is:
1. Short – This is key because testimonials are for selling you to other people who don’t know you. For this reason, if you get a blabbermouth, the listener will lose focus and the testimonial will lose its punch. Make sure they get to the point quickly.

2. Specific – I got one great review in which a lady said, “He was great. He exceeded my expectations. He gave me a lot of things to think about that I can apply to my personal and professional life.” I response was that that was great, but it was emotional, not specific. I needed her to give one phrase, concept or metaphor that helped her with a particular challenge she was having. This adds validity to her and credibility to my ability to create change in my audiences.

3. Story-form – Everything is more memorable when told in a story. Ancient cultures passed down their traditions orally through stories. This is for a reason. Only a story can paint a vivid picture and unlock people’s emotions. In testimonials, the best format is “This is how I was, this is what I learned, this is how I changed.” There are many different formats you can use, but this is the easiest one to teach people. Remember, you only have a few minutes before your audience leaves and turns their attention to the next item on their agendas. You don’t have time to hold a class on Testimonials 101.

So I lost this round, but I’m going back to the gym and will figure out the right combinations will score a knockout. One day, I’ll be champ. Smile.

Connection is key,

Your Connection Coach

PS…I read all my comments. I’d love to hear what you think of this. If you really liked it, subscribe to the blog and I’ll send you updates when I have new announcements, okay?

PPS…Big congrats to Kevin and Tom, also known as SwiftKick. They won Speaker of the Year again. They have won so many consecutive times, the last person to win speaker of the year was ME. Yup, it was that long ago. These guys rock and are always teaching me what it takes to run the tables on the college market. Much love fellas.


3 Responses

  1. Excellent post Jonathan.

    I made a presentation for 1 guy one day! But I gave everything like they were 10 (what was expected…).

    I’m really looking forward for more behind the scenes and wisdom from you mate : )

    Have an amazing day


  2. Jonathan,
    Thanks for this. You captured what we have all experienced, that flat audience that sucks the energy out. I love what you said about there is always one person who needs to hear the message and that is who you are speaking to. You can not give up on that person. Normally corporate and Government speakers, this week I had the opportunity to speak to a senior class at a High School. Boy, they gave me nothing for the first 5 minutes, kept fighting through it and BAM we connected. Thanks for re-confirming our belief that someone needs to hear the message.
    Keep Winning and Live Life Dynamically!

  3. As an actor IMPROV for me was one of the hardest things for me to learn and the reason why is because you have these rules you must remember, but also you have to make sure that you are letting yourself go and enjoying the moment. Improv is great when you’re performing and someone forgets there lines or some how Act 1 lines end up in Act 3. I can’t tell you how many times it has saved me when either a fellow actor or I have skipped a line that provided important information for the audience to know in order for them to follow the story. With lots of practice I got good at improv and did join an improv group for sometime performing downtown on the street during the summer. You are a great speaker and entertainer, I have full confidence that you will perfect the craft and have people laughing and crying out of their seats. God Bless.

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