It’s time to weave into your speech the unique elements that will land your message squarely in the hearts and minds of your listeners. Your goal is to craft a message that is memorable, influential, and effective. Now is the time you want to pique your prospects’ interests and curiosity and maybe even make them laugh.
First, consider the speech support. The goal of your support materials is to link your argument to examples and illustrations that make the point easy to understand. Speech supports have the power to boost your credibility and draw in your prospect’s attention.
One of the most effective speech supports is the anecdote or story. Most often, it’s a short, engaging tale that makes your point in an entertaining way. Other popular and useful speech supports include:
Analogy: A similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based. “A good public relations department is to a real estate agency as fuel is to a jet.”
Definition: The formal statement of the meaning or significance of a word, phrase, etc. “A speech, as defined by Webster’s, is the practice of oral communication.”
Statistics: The “collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation” of huge quantities of numerical facts or data. “A recent survey suggests that adults actually remember 50 percent of what they hear in an oral presentation.”
Testimonial: A declaration certifying the value or excellence, etc., of a thing. “The New York Times named Bob the most reliable, consistent businessman in history.”
Hypothesis: A proposition set forth as an explanation for the occurrence of an event or trend. “Your company’s recent slump in ad sales may be due to a lack of energy and inspiration in your print and online teams.”
Second, consider the rhetorical device, a technique a speaker uses to evoke an emotional response. This tool is versatile and has the ability to enhance any presentation. Let’s take a look at a couple of rhetorical devices.
Alliteration is the excessive repetition of the sound of a particular letter within a sentence. “A bright, bilingual broker is just what your company needs to boost its bottom line!”
Anaphora is emphasizing words by repeating them at the beginning of neighboring clauses. This was a device employed by then Senator Barack Obama with great success, during the 2008 presidential campaign. Here is an example from his January 2008 New Hampshire primary speech:
“We can harness the ingenuity of farmers and scientists, citizens and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil and save our planet from a point of no return. And when I am president of the United States, we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home. . . . We will end this war in Iraq. We will bring our troops home. We will finish the job–we will finish the job against Al Qaida in Afghanistan. We will care for our veterans. We will restore our moral standing in the world.”
His use of anaphora helped engage the audience and encouraged people to join in, some repeating each phrase at just the appropriate time in cadence with the speaker. As the message progressed, Obama created a sense of unity between himself and the audience.
It is equally important to use examples that are more analytical in nature; in other words, to get creatively persuasive with the hard, cold facts. A wonderful example of such an opening is found in President Harry S. Truman’s famed “Whistle Stop Speech,” given on September 18, 1948, in Chariton, Iowa. During that speech, “Give ’Em Hell” Harry used numbers and statistics to open his audience’s eyes to what the opposition was doing. Here’s some of what he told folks that day:
“In 1932, 123,000 farmers in the United States had lost their farms. In 1947, less than 800 farms were foreclosed. That’s the greatest record in history.
“In 1932, the farmers were hopelessly in debt. Their indebtedness has been reduced by more than 50 percent and they have $18 billion in assets. Think of that! Just think of that!”
Truman went on to warn his audience that the Republicans wanted to reverse that prosperity, do away with price-support programs for farmers, and “turn the clock back to the horse-and-buggy days with such people that made up the ‘do-nothing’ 80th Congress.”
He then placed the solution to the problem–whether to progress or not–squarely in the hands of his audience:
“That Congress tried its level best to take all the rights away from labor…to put the farmer back to 1932…to put small business out of business…You stayed at home in 1946, and you got the 80th Congress, and you got just exactly what you deserved. You didn’t exercise your God-given right to control this country. Now you’re going to have another chance. If you let that chance slip, you won’t have my sympathy. If you don’t let that chance slip, you’ll do me a very great favor, for I’ll live in the White House another four years.”
And he did.
Truman was reelected president of the United States on November 2, 1948. Granted, he was the sitting president, and we can’t all be as aggressive as Harry S. Truman was that day, but we can take a cue from his passion and certainty and, of course, his use of numbers and statistics.
Now that you have your tools in hand, it’s time to discuss where you can find your
best material. I’ve found it usually requires you to do a little creative research. Start collecting stories, magazine articles, and funny and compelling quotes. Put them into what I like to call a “File of Creative Examples” for ongoing use. To keep it packed with material, surf the Internet, search LexisNexis, cruise the bookstores, read newspapers, journals, and magazines, and listen to interesting speakers.
Always be on the lookout for examples that really hit home for you. And, of course, examine your own experience. Some of the best material comes from your personal, academic, and professional lives. Remember, there’s some validity to sayings such as, “You can’t make this stuff up!” and “Truth is stranger than fiction!” and “The story you are about to hear is real, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” So roll up your shirtsleeves and commit an hour or two a week to filling up your own File of Creative Examples.
Excerpted from Small Message, Big Impact by Terri L. Sjodin. Published by Portfolio/Penguin. Copyright (c) Terri L. Sjodin, 2011, 2012.
[Image: Flickr user NewsHour]