You have probably listened to and delivered several speeches whether at work, at school or as a member of a social group, speeches are common and an effective way of communication. Having said this, we are not deciphering anything new when we say: speeches are not all equal. Compare Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address with that lousy speech you remember from work. Equally moving?
So if all speeches are not all equal, what makes a speech standout? Is there a science to oratory? Can certain orators increase our proneness to listen? In order to answer these questions and provide optimal advice, we’ve analyzed speeches that have endured the passage of time and a pile of literature to bring before you 5 commandments of Oratory.
Commandment 1: Visions move people
Abraham Lincoln, “The Gettysburg Address”
November 19th, 1863; Gettysburg Pennsylvania
Abraham Lincoln carved in 10 lines a speech that moved thousands of unionists after the bloodiest battle in the American Civil War. How was Abraham Lincoln able to pull off such a move?
Abraham Lincoln had a vision and adapted the message to provide meaning to the audience. Instead of focusing the speech on divisive issues or the battle itself, Abraham Lincoln emphasized healing the country and moving towards the ideals laid in the Declaration of Independence. By doing so he was able to rally people and continue the war effort.
A government of the people, by the people, for the people
The Takeaway: If you want to move people, concentrate on the larger vision and provide the meaning that they are looking for. A speech is not about you but rather about the audience. If you are able click with the audience, you’ll create a meaningful relationship. Your speech will be successful and the audience will walk under the perception they gained knowledge and power.
Commandment 2: Repeat with rhythm
Martin Luther King Jr, “I have a dream”
August 28th, 1963; Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
We have all heard the quote “I have a dream”. In the heyday of civil rights movements, Martin Luther King Jr stood in front of thousands to deliver the most important pro civil rights speech ever to be made. Following his speech, thousands continued to push harder than ever for civil rights reform. So what made I have a dream move so many and stand the passage of time?
Martin Luther King Jr repeated with passion once and again the same ideas and words. Why? There is a certain attention span and digestive ability innate to our cognitive process – we sometimes drift to Waikiki beach. By repeating in a rhythmic manner key words, phrases and themes you not only are more likely to persuade the audience but are more likely to leave a meaningful memoir in their memory. To give you a gist of the tool, Martin repeats I have a dream 8 times, freedom 21 times, now is the time 4 times, and satisfied 11 times just in one paragraph.
The takeaway: If you want to create a speech that stands the passage of time and moves, bare in mind that the audience has millions of other things in their head. Make sure you repeat preferably in a rhythmic manner the main words, themes and topics of the speech.
Commandment 3: Use non-verbal communication to reinforce your rhetoric
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Inaugural Address
January 20th, 1961; United States Capitol, Washington D.C.
My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States on January 1961. Coming into a period of great uncertainty, Kennedy was expected to guide the U.S. through the cold war, the arms and space race and the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
Kennedy delivered a rhetorical master piece yet the speech was topped by the harmony between his speech and non-verbal communication. During his speech, Kennedy was able to deliver and enchant the audience by using non-verbal communication to reinforce his message. Kennedy stood at the podium and unleashed a message via strong body language and posture. He maintained eye contact and warmth in his tone and language.
The takeaway: Non-verbal communication reinforces verbal communication. If you want to convey a message effectively make sure non-verbal communication builds on the message you want to advance.
Commandment 4: Humanize yourself
Mahatma Gandhi, Quit India
August 8th, 1942 ; Gowalia Tank Maidan, Mumbai.
In 1942 Gandhi addressed thousands in Mumbai to spur a non-violent revolution against the century lasting British rule. In his speech, Gandhi emphasizes his humanity by making himself accessible.
By using persuasive rhetoric and creating an image of himself and his mission as one of morale quest, Gandhi was able to click with the audience and move millions in the aspiration for independence.
The takeaway: you must trust your audience and make your audience trust you. If the audience doesn’t feel you are trustworthy through your rhetoric and non-verbal communication, not only won’t they like you but the message will also be lost.
Commandment 5: Structure
Silicon Valley entrepreneur and best selling writer Nancy Duarte will narrate to you the structure that is inherent to the greatest speeches of all time, from the Gettysburg Address to Luther’s I have a dream. A taste, it’s all about the difference between what is and what could be.
Image credit to David Erickson @ Flickr