Writing Amazing Speeches | There can be no doubt that there is tremendous power in the Spoken Word, and that every coach is made more effective when they cultivate this needed skill.
One need look no further than the inspirational influence of Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, and Steve Jobs to feel the power, the impact, and the shift that occurs when a communicator steps up, hones their craft, and delivers a message that is relevant and poignant. Racism has diminished, repression has ceased, recessions have been halted, and revolutions have begun, all through the power of the Spoken Word.
…the impact, and the shift that occurs when a communicator steps up, hones their craft, and delivers a message that is relevant and poignant
To speak well, we need to take enough time to prepare. “How long do you wish me to speak?” asked Abraham Lincoln, who was invited by a society to attend its annual dinner. “Why do you ask?” inquired the secretary. “Because,” said the orator Lincoln, “if you want me to give a five-minute address I must have at least two weeks in which to prepare myself, but if you want me to talk for two hours, I am ready now.” Experienced speakers know that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Lincoln was saying here that a concise talk (i.e. in the style of the wildly popular TED Talks) is even more difficult.
If you ever have to give a speech, unless you’re an experienced public speaker, it’s usually best to write your speech beforehand, word for word. Be prepared. And don’t just write a boring speech reciting quotes and data, without any seasoning. Make it an amazing talk, seasoned with impact, one that will be listened to and parked in the memory of the listener for a long time.
By far, the best in history are Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesus Christ. They spoke to us long before the age of the Internet and seamless communication, and yet their words continue to shape the world to this day.
Abraham Lincoln and MLK forever changed the face of modern democracies, diversity, and human rights. Jesus, without the aid of a plane, train or automobile; without the support of an internet connection, fax machine or telephone, and without the use of violence, spread his message of love like a healthy virus within a short time to the most remote corners of the planet. His ethos of love, compassion, and justice has done more to shape our modern human rights and legal system than any other person in history. The entire human rights movement itself essentially owes itself to Jesus Christ. So, we are invited to consider what we can learn from these gurus of communication?
Here are the 12 best takeaways we can learn from them:
1. Keep it short. Your message does not have to be eternal to be immortal. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address lasted for 3 minutes, and was 10 sentences (272 words) long. But it was powerful! The, “I Have a Dream Speech” is about 1600 words! The Sermon on the Mount is about 2500 words – which can be delivered in about 15 minutes! Capture the key emotions and ideas you want to convey in as little time as possible. If you can deliver a 10-minute speech, instead of a 45-minute droner, your audience will actually listen, and they will love your for it! 1. Keep it short. You message does not have to be eternal to be immortal. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address lasted for 3 minutes, and was 10 sentences (272 words) long. But it was powerful! The, “I Have a Dream Speech” is about 1600 words! The Sermon on the Mount is about 2500 words – which can be delivered in about 15 minutes! Capture the key emotions and ideas you want to convey in as little time as possible. If you can deliver a 10-minute speech, instead of a 45-minute droner, your audience will actually listen, and they will love your for it!
2. Have a purpose. What’s the “Big Idea”? Speak to communicate a message, and to get your audience to respond. Lincoln, MLK, and Jesus did this. What is your Big Idea and your Call to Action?
Connect with the hearts in your audience. A speech is not the place to just speak to logical side of humanity, but also to speak to the heart.
3. Connect with the hearts in your audience. A speech is not the place to just speak to logical side of humanity, but also to speak to the heart. In fact, the very best speakers have an uncanny capacity for speaking both to our cognitive and our contemplative sides; both the conscious and the subconscious; both the head and the heart. Know your audience, and speak to their emotions, their values, and aspirations.
4. Speak to larger truths. Narrow speakers are poor speakers who only speak to a narrow audience. Seek to build common ground with your audience by sharing truths that are bigger than any one cause. Think about intrinsic values and hopes we all aspire to. It’s best to connect your ideas and words to larger causes and ideals, as Lincoln did, MLK did, and Jesus did.
5. Speak to the larger audience with a wider reach. When you give a speech, assume that it’s not just to those before you. MLK’s “I Have A Dream Speech” has been printed and re-printed across the globe. Lincoln’s Gettysburg address was not really addressed to the audience before him, but to the nation as a whole. The Sermon on the Mount has been a major part of the best-selling book in history: The Bible. Think about how your speech will affect a greater audience, and what message you want to convey to them. With the Internet and especially with video, your speech will be communicated to many others.
6. Create context. Bring in famous lines which are culturally relevant. Lincoln opened his speech with a line from a more famous document, the Declaration of Independence (“that all men are created equal”). Jesus referenced the Old Testament Law. MLK referenced the Bible. These references bring many ideas and emotions. Other famous lines that could be referenced include quotes, poetry, songs, books, other speeches. The references bring a lot more with them than just the phrase or quote you use, if your audience is familiar with it.
7. Use imagery. Lincoln, MLK, and Jesus were all masters at paining pictures with their audience. Imagery is powerful because it can take abstract truths and bring them home to the audience. Master speakers do more than use plain words, but create a picture in people’s minds through your words. Including imagery in talks is a simple and powerful way of expanding your expressive potential as a speaker. Pictures communicate at levels beyond the descriptive possibilities of words and bathe the brain in effective visual stimulation. Having said that, not all pictures are created equally. Choosing the right images, and using them in the right ways, can greatly impact your effectiveness.
You are a part of the message. Your energy, passion, and charisma will either attract and retain the attention of your audience, or deter and repel them. Smile. Take deep and natural breaths. Understand basic human communication.
8. Share a positive message boldly. People hear enough negative. Be positive. And be bold. Be confident. Believe in yourself and your message. Get rid of any subconscious or conscious fears which may hinder your effectiveness.
9. Edit. Tweak. Revise. Again and again. Each tweak should cut out the unnecessary, develop the central idea, make the words flow more smoothly, and powerful develop imagery and phrases.
10. You are a part of the message. Your energy, passion, and charisma will either attract and retain the attention of your audience, or deter and repel them. Smile. Take deep and natural breaths. Understand basic human communication. The believability of what we communicate is influenced: 7% by words, 38% by tone of voice, and 55% by body language. Be organized in your talk, and use frameworks which can be easily understood and memorized. Put what you have to say in a logical sequence.
11. End strong. Lincoln ended the Gettysburg Address with the line “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. That line went down in history. MLK ended the “I Have a Dream” speech with the line, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” It is easily memorable. Jesus ended with an image everyone in his audience can visualize. End in a way that people will remember, and that contains the message you want them to remember, because, apart from the opening, it’s the most important line.
12. Above all else: Be Yourself!