Do you know what the secret of life (and presenting) is?

That was a question asked by Jack Palance to Billy Crystal in the movie “City Slickers.”

Jack plays “Curly” the grizzled old cowboy. Billy plays a New Yorker named “Mitch.” Mitch (who is going through a mid-life crisis) perks up when he hears the question and leans in…

Mitch: No, what?

Curly: (lifts up his leather-gloved hand with index finger pointed up)


Mitch: (bewildered asks) Your finger?

Curly: One thing, just one thing.

Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?

Curly: (pointing his finger at Mitch) That’s what you’ve got to figure out.

This question is also at the heart of presenting. You’ve got to figure out your ONE THING.

So, before you start making your slides pretty… before you design your audience interaction… before you plan your Big Entrance… and before you brainstorm objections, you need to figure out what you want to say in ONE sentence.

The ONE THING the first question my “Silver Goldfish” coauthor Alan Hoffler asks anyone wanting help in their messaging. After asking hundreds of people the question, only one person has ever been able to do it on the first try.

When Alan asked me the question, I shared that the entire Goldfish series message is centered around one simple phrase:

“Little things make a big difference.”


It’s not going to be easy. Your One Thing may be hard to discover. Mitch needed two weeks on a horse to find his. You probably don’t need a horse, but you do need to spend some time finding your One Thing.

Here are some “One Thing” sentences from client presentations:

– Walnut Grove was a great place to grow up. (50-year reunion speech)
– Your perfect life does not exist (yet). (creativity expert)
– Self-care isn’t selfish. (stress management expert)
– You can define what you become. (given by a quadriplegic)
– Solving member problems is the ticket to growth. (Association consultant)
– The devil’s in the details. (CPA)

TIP (To Improve Presentations) – Find the “One Thing” for your presentation. 

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Stan Phelps

Stan Phelps walks the walk. He stands out in the sea of sameness by modeling his own Differentiated Experience (DX) message: Differentiation isn’t just about what you say, it’s about what you do and, more importantly, how and why you do it. Stan leverages his unique collection of 5,000+ case studies on customer, employee, and brand experience to engage audiences with informative learning-based experiences. He believes purposeful DX wins the hearts of employees and customers, and differentiation ultimately boosts loyalty, retention, referrals, and results.

Find Stan’s in-person and virtual keynotes, workshops, and Goldfish tank programs at