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How Tony Robbins Wins Fans

The Greatest Feeling You've Never Heard About

How Tony Robbins Wins Fans

Have you ever visited a sports event, church or concert and felt something special? Found yourself bound to those around you and totally forgotten yourself? If you have then you’ve probably experienced the greatest feeling you’ve never heard about.

It’s a feeling so powerful it can be used to weaponize people. It’s a feeling that is never forgotten.

I’m going to explain this feeling and show you how to use it to transform your next speech or pitch into a moment of brilliance.


When I Found This Feeling

I first came across this feeling when I met someone who just wouldn’t stop talking about it. She was a transplant surgeon, clearly very successful (by definition) with a high-status job. Throughout our time together all she wanted to talk to me about was how excited she was because she’d recently got a feeling owing to this man:

(Tony Robbins)

I was shocked. I thought Tony Robbins helped people who were down on their luck, achieved little and needed to be motivated. How could a person with such a high-status job, who clearly was hyper motivated find him so appealing?

Not Everything is as it First Appears

The more we spoke the more I found the content of Tony Robbins’ events mundane, I told her ‘this is all common knowledge, it’s simply a web search away, why pay money for this stuff?!’ (A lot of money). The more she spoke however, the more it became clear she wasn’t excited by a newfound knowledge. She was excited by a feeling she had experienced when she visited his event, she had been stirred.

 ‘Once in a lifetime feeling’ she declared.

 So powerful was the feeling that she couldn’t stop talking to everyone about it (poor patients). She even had a WhatsApp chat group where she exchanged messages daily with other people she met at the event.

 What was this feeling I thought? And, how do I get some of it?!

 Emile Durkheim

 In 1912 in his book Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Emile Durkheim described a state we move to temporarily, when the ‘self disappears and collective interests predominate’’. He called this:

Collective Effervescence

Take a look at the below account of someone who had recently experienced collective effervescence:

 “All of a sudden I felt sort of drawn out into infinity and all of a sudden I had lost touch with my mind. I felt I was caught-up in the vastness of creation…. Sometimes you would look up and see the light on the altar and it would just be a blinding sort of light and radiation…..  it connected me to infinity.”  

(Taken from The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt)

This was written by someone who was describing their experience of LSD. Taking the drug gives a similar feeling to what you or I might feel at a Tony Robbins event or a brilliant sporting finale.

The Love Drug

When collective effervescence takes place the brain releases a chemical called oxytocin:  also known as the ‘love dug’. It’s part of why everyone in the 1960s was so happy to have multiple partners – they had oxytocin everywhere!

How do we Generate Collective Effervescence?

The easiest way to achieve a sense of collective effervescence is to get your audience to participate in a synchronous activity. On a simple level that means people singing or clapping together.

However, a heightened sense of excitement can be reached if you take a few extra steps. Here’s how two great exponents of collective effervescence get their audience into a state of collective effervescence:

How Tony Robins Wins Fans

For those of you that have not attended a Tony Robbins event let me describe to you some of his tactics.

To begin with he breaks down boundaries between audience members that may otherwise prohibit them from collective action. To do this he gets his audience to have intimate contact with one another. For example, he may insist every audience member rubs the shoulders of the person next to them. This happens pretty frequently, say every 20 minutes.

He will also ask his audience to dance whenever loud music plays, which is a lot. This can take place at least every hour, for 12 hours. This is the synchronous act.

 Add to this a layer of Tony Robbins talking passionately about identity, personal potential and overcoming obstacles and you can see why he has such an effect on people like the transplant surgeon

Going Further

Robbins will even take things one step further and ask his audience to walk across hot coals – what a fantastically vivid act for your memory bank!

The Armed Forces

For centuries armies have known that asking men to risk their lives requires more than just patriotism. Rarely veterans reference ‘Queen and country’. Frequently they talk about having a sense of obligation to their fellow soldiers.

Armed forces are exemplar at breaking down barriers and creating a sense of collectivism. They take new recruits and turn their world upside down. Early mornings, cold showers, beastings, all play their role.

Then they ask recruits to perform grueling group exercises. Finally, recruits spend countless hours marching in sync on parade and not passing out until they act in unison.


In The Righteous Mind Jonathan Haidt provides an account by a World War Two veteran, William McNell who reflected on marching drills:

Words are inadequate to describe the emotion aroused by the prolonged movement in unison that drilling involved. A sense of pervasive well-being is what I recall; more specifically, a strange sense of personal enlargement; a sort of swelling out, becoming bigger than life, thanks to participation in collective ritual. 

How do you apply this to your speech or pitch?

The trick here is to ensure whatever you do it is congruent with your proposal. If you fail to heed this advise you may be asked to leave the building.

If you’re pitching cyber security is there a way you can talk about acting in unison and ask the audience to clap along with you? Selling make-up? perhaps you have a song that captures how your customers feel?

Currently I end some of my lectures working toward collective effervescence, I do this through playing loud, well known music and dancing to it. This nearly always leads to the audience clapping and some whooping and singing along. This is pretty tame compared to how Tony Robbins wins fans but I hope to explore the technique further and I’ll update this article with my findings.  

Interested in speaking about speaking?

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