At Ethos3, we are fortunate to have many successful and interesting professionals among our many Twitter followers, including renowned speaker Jay Mooreland. Inspired by his interaction with Ethos3 on Twitter as well as his Twitter content, I contacted Jay and we set up a time to talk about his public speaking experience.

Because of his extensive history as a public speaker, Jay has some great insights into the best presentation techniques. I am thrilled to share with you Jay’s answers to the questions I asked him during our brief Q&A.

The Q&A has the potential to be inspirational as well as informative for all types of public speakers, especially, but not limited to, speakers in the financial industry.

Q&A with Jay Mooreland

Leslie: Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?

Jay: I speak on the topic of behavioral finance and behavioral economics, which is really discussing what drives us to make the various decisions we make within the investment and financial realm.

I’ve been a financial advisor since 1999, and a few years ago I went back to school to get my graduate degree in Economics and that’s where I fell into, by accident, the whole concept of behavioral biases which are mainly subconscious influences, or subconscious drivers, that cause us to act a certain way. Being subconscious, it happens below our level of awareness, so a lot of times we do things without necessarily knowing why.

In fact most of our decisions are subconscious. As I started learning about this I realized how many mistakes or poor choices I’ve made in the past, as well as the investing public has made in the past – driven primarily by these biases.

I was able to tie specific actions with the bias that was driving that action and I realized that by understanding these biases and creating specific action items, we can actually defend ourselves from the biases. We can’t control the biases; they’re going to influence us. We’re going to feel these innate urges but we can choose to act differently when we feel them rather than just go with the natural nature of the action.

So what I do now is go throughout the country, really throughout the world, and I speak to financial advisors and I train them about these biases. But I also speak a lot to the investing public, just regular mom-and-pop investors, about how these biases influence them as well.

So that’s really what I’m up to these days and it takes up the majority of my time.

financial presentation

Jay Mooreland

Leslie: Can you tell me about your history as a public speaker?

Jay: I’ve always enjoyed speaking. A lot of people are anxious up on stage but I love it. The bigger the crowd, the more I feed of the energy. Sure, I get a little anxious, but that anxiety is a positive anxiety for me; I actually think it helps my brain think more clearly.

As far as public speaking goes, I’ve done it throughout my entire life, even in church as a youth. I’ve always given talks in church and as I’ve grown up, the faith has called upon me to give very large presentations and I’ve enjoyed doing it.

As I found out more about biases, I started doing small presentations to financial advisors; that caught someone’s attention and they got me on a bigger platform. So the next thing I know, I was presenting to 150 people, and then the next one was 200 people, and so on. Once you do well, your name gets around.

I started public speaking about behavioral finance just over 2 years ago, so it hasn’t been long, but I’ve been speaking for years on other topics and have really enjoyed not just the challenge, but also the excitement and energy I get from engaging with an audience, and really trying to make a difference. 

Leslie: What are your greatest challenges as a speaker, and how have you overcome those challenges?

Jay: There are two challenges that I’ll highlight.

The first challenge is just engaging the audience. That’s the number one thing.

People come, and they may want to be there, or they may not want to be there, but the bottom line is they are there so how do you engage them? How do you keep them away from their phones and checking their emails and focused on the message itself?

What I find really works is simply interacting with them.

All of my presentations are highly interactive, even when there are 200 or 300 people in the room, I tell people to shout out answers. So sometimes on a slide I’ll have a question, or something humorous to make people laugh.

Or perhaps I’ll share what I call an aha moment. Since I talk about psychology and money there are lots of aha moments where people are like, Oh wow, I didn’t even realize I was thinking that way.

I often provide something engaging right off the bat. Right away, I immediately get into it with a game, I engage them so right off the bat they’re thinking, this is different, this is cool; I’m engaged.

I also make humor part of it. I make sure that I have either a joke or something that we can laugh at every 10 minutes. It’s not a comedy show but I feel that if people can laugh, even if it’s just a little chuckle, they’re going to smile and that positive energy is now coming towards you. They’re feeling better about you and the topic.

But the key thing is, when speaking and engaging an audience, answer the question what’s in it for them? And so I will tell the audience what’s in it for them right up front because I want to make sure they know that by listening to me, and paying attention to me, they are going to benefit. And that’s got to be specific; it’s got to be right up front because we are selfish creatures. We are only going to spend time on things that benefit us so telling them right up front why they should pay attention is hugely beneficial.

The other challenge I have which admittedly I have not found the right answer to is getting people to actually act and take the advice or use the message that I’m delivering and put it into their daily life. When it comes to my topic of behavior and psychology we have lots of potential for action items. I can kind of track their activity afterwards by seeing how many people engage me through email, how many people follow me on Twitter afterwards, or how many hits I get on my website from that city where I just presented and it’s unfortunately low.

Now I speak within the financial industry and they are not nearly as connected on social media as say technology or marketing or other types of organizations. Most financial advisors don’t have a Twitter account; they’re lucky if they have a LinkedIn account so it is hard to get a judge of that through social media but you have some financial advisors who are really interested in improving their business and their practice and so they reach out to me and we have a deeper dialogue afterwards but I think the majority of the audience, and I’m sure this happens all around, might feel it was a great presentation, they might walk away saying, wow that’s great, but then there’s actually a behavioral bias called the status quo bias meaning that we as humans prefer the status quo to actually creating the action to change something.

So I think a lot of times when people leave these things they initially think, I’m going to do some about it but then they get back into their office, back into their routine and they realize that in order to do something about it they have to change their daily routine and since the status quo bias is so strong and they get busy doing other things and the action items just kind of fall by the wayside and a week or two later, its as if it never happens.

So my challenge number two is to try to get more people to actually act on the things I’m speaking on and so I recognize what I need to do more is make sure that I hone in on why they need to do this. A lot of times I focus on, this is a best practice, and this is how it will help you, but I think that speakers should focus on this is why you need to be doing this rather than just this is the best practice. 

Leslie: What is your favorite piece of presentation advice?

Jay: Tell the audience what’s in it for them, and it needs to be novel and it needs to be specific, meaning coming out and saying, this will help improve your business is too cliché because everybody says it.

You need to tell them exactly how it’s going to improve their business and you cannot say things that are unfounded such as this will cause your practice to grow by 20%. People know that’s not true and that it’s not provable especially for them as an individual.

You need to individualize it and say this is exactly what you’re going to get out of it, and also if they need to act on it you need to tell them up front that this success is dependent upon them doing some specific steps.

So I think just being very up front with the audience about what they can expect from you and then also what you expect from them if they’re actually going to get out of it what you’re telling them they’re going to get out of it. And that really goes into having principles that can be applied in life because if you’re talking about something perhaps on a theoretical standpoint, perhaps talking about methodology or so forth, you really need to hone in on what are some very specific things they can do to because to simply give someone an idea and expect them to walk away and figure out how to apply it in their own realm of life, that requires too much creativity and too much thought; odds are that people aren’t going to do it. But if you tell them exactly what they need to do, and tell them what those steps are, you’ve taken away the need to think about that and then the question truly becomes not what do I do about it but do I choose to do something about it? 


In summary, remember to tell the audience exactly what they will get out of your presentation. In addition, create moments of interactivity in your presentation. To learn more from Jay, follow him on Twitter, check out his website, and read his blog.

Also, watch for his book, which will be released in the near future. Check out this short video below, created by Jay as an introduction to the first chapter of his new book. 

Additional Resources:

3 Presentation Tips From “Hooked: How To Build Habit-Forming Products”

Beginner-Friendly Data Visualization Tricks

Storytelling Tips from Acclaimed Writer Burt Helm

Why Bullet Points Kill Presentations

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