Great speeches resonate: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” as well as, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Yep, JFK and Churchill certainly knew how to blow their listeners away. If delivering memorable speeches is something that interests you, then read on as this simple technique might be the difference between a successful speech and something to cure insomnia.
I once saw Jerry Seinfeld say that recent research revealed one of the greatest fears is speaking in public – even more so than the fear of death. Then he cracked a joke saying that if this were so, the person giving the eulogy at a funeral was not as fortunate as the person getting buried.
Style and substance
Like a lot of communication, great speeches usually require two critical areas to focus on. In this case, one of them I can’t help you with at all, but the other is a cinch.
The first area is all about word gravitas. Choosing words like “ask not” instead of “do not ask,” and “human conflict” instead of “war,” are all part of why these speeches impact. Pumping out these requires an astute mind and a thesaurus – so good luck with that one.
The second area is a lot more doable and will still bring zing to your communication. It boils down to one major element: theme.
For example, I recently gave a speech for, of all things, an engagement. Before I put pen to pad, I spent some time searching for a relevant area that would mean something to him, her, their friends, as well as provide some ‘fat’ I could play with.
After looking at where they lived, their careers, hobbies, good/bad habits and family situation, etc, I finally cracked it. The couple were both middle children. So theme became: the middle.
Structurally, I crafted the speech around welcoming everyone to the evening, thanking the hosts, and advising the audience of the important things in this couple’s life. But instead of talking about love, commitment, faithfulness, and all the other expected areas, I started describing the TV show: The Middle.
Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s about a dysfunctional family that somehow stays together in trying circumstances.
Life imitating art
I threw in a few gags about overcoming dysfunctional habits of each other, while announcing that they were middle children. Although initially confused where I was going, the crowd quickly picked up the theme as it became quite obvious.
I mentioned the couple became engaged in the middle of their training, both their bedrooms are in the middle of their houses, they solve arguments by meeting in the middle, and how they finally knew they were meant for each other when they felt something strange in their middle, because that’s where the heart is.
There was an abundance of other middle-orientated situations to share, and then I wrapped things up by saying that I hoped nothing would come in the middle of these two… except the pitter-patter of adorable little children.
Each time I mentioned ‘the middle’ there were appreciable laughs and applause as I tied in the theme word with the lives of these soon-to-be newlyweds.
The rest of the evening was spent dotted with people I did and didn’t know thanking me for not only an entertaining speech, but an educational one at that.
So, whether you’re fronting the microphone in front of a wedding crowd, a financial organisation, or a committee, if you’re not an orator or wordsmith of considered note, take the easy way – theme your way to a great speech. It’s the last word in easy speech writing.