Intellect and the Imagination: Two Poles of a Good Speech

Christopher Witt —  January 19, 2016 — 1 Comment

A good SpeechA good speech engages both the intellect and the imagination.

Which may explain why there are are so few good speeches today, in business, in politics, and in the pulpit.

When you’re giving a speech, of course you have to address your audience’s intellect. This is especially true in business and in academia.

The intellect demands reason and logic, information and ideas, evidence and proof. It expects facts and figures, explanations and definitions.

But you also have to engage your audience’s imagination, which is, in the words of Northrop Frye, “an intermediary between emotions and intellect.”

Imagination speaks the language of story and fable, of metaphor and simile, of symbol and myth, of dreams. It is the playground of curiosity, wonder, and fantasy.

Speeches pitched to the intellect may educate or inform, convince, or persuade. But they rarely move people emotionally or move them to action. They run the risk, if they are overly intellectual, of being arid, boring, and lifeless.

Speeches addressed to the imagination may motivate, influence, or inspire. But they will leave practical-minded people unmoved. And if they are lopsidedly imaginative, they will be at best entertaining, at worst woo-woo.

Good speeches please both the intellect and the imagination. They are logical and clear and, at the same time, intriguing and absorbing.

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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.

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  1. Intellect and the Imagination: Two Poles of a G... - January 20, 2016

    […] A good speech engages both the intellect and the imagination. Which may explain why there are are so few good speeches today, in business, in politics, and in the pulpit.  […]

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