In a world that celebrates money, achievement, and celebrities, what do you value?

What do you honor?

Who are your heroes?

Maybe the most important thing to know about ending or concluding a speech (see “How to End a Speech”) is knowing when to end it.

Ending a SpeechI was once on a plane preparing to land in San Diego Airport, considered by some to be one of the country’s most dangerous due to its downtown location. It was late at night and foggy. Everyone just wanted to land and deplane.

We fastened our seat belts. We raised our tray tables and seats to their original, upright positions. And the plane made its descent.

At the last minute the plane pulled up, and the pilot announced that due to the fog we were unable to land. He circled the airport again, hoping that the fog would part enough for him to bring us in.

The pilot repeated the process — circling the airport, coming in for a landing, pulling up, and starting over again — two more times before landing.

I often have the same experience while listening to inexperienced speakers.

They’ve clearly said everything they needed to say. They’ve exhausted the subject as well as the audience. And they’ve given every indication that they’re ending. But they don’t stop. They keep talking. You can almost hear the audience groan.

Here are three iron-clad rules for knowing when to end a speech.

Continue Reading…

Masterful Speaker Create Images In Audience's MindsMasterful speakers create images in their audience’s minds, because long after people have forgotten everything else, they’ll remember the images.

Think of Churchill’s evocation of the “Iron Curtain” or Herbert Hoover’s classic campaign slogan “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”

You don’t have to project images on a screen when you give a speech or presentation to create images in your audience’s minds.

You can engage an audience’s imaginations in a speech in at least four ways.

Continue Reading…

A Speech's Content is KingA masterful delivery is one of the cornerstones of a great speech. But its content — its message — is more important.

The speech’s message is its content — one central idea, clearly defined, supported by reason and evidence, logically structured, illustrated with metaphors and stories, articulated with words and phrases that are clarifying, moving, and memorable.

Delivery is a skill — a way of communicating a message both verbally and non-verbally to win the audience’s trust, understanding, and compliance.

It’s true that perfectly good ideas often get ignored or discounted because they’re poorly delivered.

And many bogus ideas get more attention than they deserve because they’re well delivered.

So I’m not saying that delivery is unimportant. Far from it. It’s just that a speech’s message is even more important. 

Content is king. Delivery is its helpful (or unhelpful) servant.

Here are 5 Reasons Why a Speech’s Message (its Content) is King

1. The message is what people remember, if they remember anything at all in the days following a speech.

2. The message is what has the power to change the way people think and feel and act.

3. The message is what inspires people and touches their imaginations.

4. The message is what people pass on to others (adding their own insights and wisdom in the process).

5. The message is what articulates the speaker’s aspirations, beliefs, and intentions.

You can take a two-day workshop and significantly improve your delivery. But it takes more effort, more experience, more wisdom to construct a meaningful, powerful, and engaging message.

What reason would you add why a speech’s message is king?

When not to use PowerPointIn spite of the fact that I’m the author of Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint, I don’t hate it. It doesn’t make me foam at the mouth or denounce it as the end of civilization as we know it.

(I’m not a member of the Anti-PowerPoint Party. Yes, there is such a thing, an official Swiss political party.)

Many of my clients use PowerPoint and use it well. On occasion, I even use it.

But PowerPoint is used too often and inappropriately.

PowerPoint is a tool. It’s a complicated, somewhat sophisticated tool, but it’s nothing more than a tool.

In my opinion, PowerPoint is a more-than-adequate, but less-than-perfect tool. You may think otherwise, and I won’t argue with you. But I will keep insisting that it’s a tool.

As with any tool, sometimes PowerPoint is used well. Sometimes not. And sometimes—frequently—it’s used when it shouldn’t be.

Just because you have a hammer and you know how to use it correctly doesn’t mean you should hit everything with it.

The same is true with PowerPoint. Even if you can use it well, you don’t have to use it all the time. There are times, in fact, when you’d be better off not using it.

Continue Reading…

The moral vision of leadersWhat is a moral vision?

Do leaders have a moral vision? Should they? How does a leader’s moral vision differ from a strategic vision?

And how does that moral vision play out in their speeches?

moral vision is a leader’s sense of what matters and is meaningful, of what has value and worth, of what deserves respect and attention.

It is rarely articulated in any explicit way. Leaders may, themselves, be only vaguely aware of having a moral vision or, for that matter, of what it is. But it influences, informs, and inspires their every decision and action. 

A strategic vision identifies an organization’s desired future and how it plans on getting there.

It involves values, both in regard to the ends and means for achieving those ends. It is meant, although it often fails, to inspire and motivate. It is invariably hammered out, clearly defined, and promulgated. (You can find it on most corporate websites.)

Whether or not leaders know what their moral vision is or are able to define it, it is on view every time they speak, in what they say and how they say it.

Do you have any doubt about Donald Trump’s moral vision? About what he values, respects, and attends to? Would you confuse his moral vision with that of Pope Francis?

So, back to my opening questions, and the three that I haven’t answered:

Do leaders have a moral vision? Yes, they do, whether they know it or not. 

Should leaders have a moral vision? A better question is, should leaders be clearer, more intentional, about the moral vision they already have? And the answer to that question is yes.

How does that moral vision influence their speeches? In every way possible.

Their moral vision shapes what they talk about. Determines the stories they tell and the moral they draw from those stories. Reveals their passion, dedication, and commitment. Influences and motivates, resonates with or repels their audiences.

What makes a great speech?

President Lyndon Johnson’s speech to Congress and to the American people 49 years ago today (March 15, 1965) is, by all standards, a great speech.

To understand its power, you have to know a bit of history of the events leading up to it.

The 15th Amendment guaranteed black Americans the right to vote. But Southern states had passed new constitutions, constitutional amendments, and laws from 1890 to 1910 making voter registration and voting more and more difficult. Most black voters, as well as many poor white ones, were disenfranchised.

On Sunday March 7, 1965, about six hundred people began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery.

They were demonstrating for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while trying to protect his mother at a civil rights demonstration.

On the outskirts of Selma, after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers, in plain sight of photographers and journalists, were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies.

That night, ABC News broadcast a 15-minute story that sickened viewers across the country, who witnessed for themselves the vicious brutality of the police.

The day became known as Blood Sunday.

One week later President Johnson delivered a speech, which has become known as his “We Shall Overcome” speech, urging congress to ensure the voting rights of black Americans.

The Voting Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965, aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment (1870) to the Constitution of the United States. The act significantly widened the franchise and is considered among the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.

Johnson’s speech is a masterpiece.

What makes it even more remarkable is the fact that it was written in only 8 hours. (Read The Making Of LBJ’s Historic ‘We Shall Overcome’ Speech.)

Why is it a great speech? And what makes any great speech great?

Continue Reading…

Leadership Strategy and MessagingOne of the core responsibilities of leaders is to communicate their organization’s identity, mission, and vision — internally and externally — in a way that promotes its success.

That’s why leaders speak all the time — giving formal presentations, talking at meetings, and holding casual (but purposeful) conversations.

That’s why leaders speak when when expectations are high and the consequences may be momentous — in times of crisis, change, or opportunity.

That’s why leaders speak as representatives of their organization –advocating and championing its policies, initiatives, and vision.

And that’s why leaders speak to influence and inspire others — not to communicate information.

Because so much is at stake when leaders speak, they need to be strategic.

Continue Reading…

Change the ConversationI’ve recently been talking to a consultant from CRA Inc., a consulting firm outside Philadelphia. Because I liked her approach, I checked out the company’s website where I came upon a line that sums up much of my own thinking: 

“Change the conversation and you change the outcomes.”

If you accept that premise, as I do, the question then becomes, “How do you change the conversation?”

In speechwriting/communications circles, the typically answer is, you change the “frame” that people use or you “reframe” the way they look at the issue.

I prefer to talk about changing the metaphors we use.

Continue Reading…

What's In It For Me?In spite of what you may have heard, WIIFM isn’t people’s only concern.

It’s become commonplace both in sales and in presentations training to tout the importance of WIIFM — “the radio station that’s always playing in the back of everyone’s mind.”

WIIFM is an acronym, not a radio station. It stands for What’s In It For Me?

And answering the audience’s WIIFM makes sense. In a way. To a point. With exceptions and reservations.

Audiences want to know — rightly — how your idea affects them. Which is why I think you always have to address two questions when you prepare your speech or presentation:

  1. What’s the point? 
    What is the single organizing principle of your speech? What are you getting at? What do all your information and ideas mean?
  2. Why do they (the audience) care?
    How does your message — the point you’re making — affect your audience? Why and how does it matter to them? What interest of theirs does it touch?

The second question — why does your care? — is often the more difficult one to answer. Determining whether and in what ways your audience cares about your idea presumes that you know what motivates them, what they value, what they want and why they want it.

The problem with WIIFM is that appeals solely to people’s self-interest. What’s in it for me? Me. Me. Me.

There are two reasons why focusing on people’s self-interests is a problem:

Continue Reading…

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...