You know a good speaker when you see one.
But are you one?
Do you ever wonder exactly why a speech can be so good? It can bring shivers down your back. It can inspire you to change the world. Sometimes it can be as simple as provoking the feeling that you aren’t alone. Everyday I have the opportunity to speak in public or watch someone else do it. I am fascinated by those who do this so well so I try to study and emulate them.
More people fear public speaking over death for example. It is frequently ranked as the #1 fear for people as a matter of fact. With so much fear attached to public speaking, often people shy away from trying to better themselves at it. As Flannery O’Connor put it, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” As it a good speech. I have a long way to become a good orator.
Winston Churchill noted that in each speech,
“There must be character, personality, delivery and occasion,…”
As in all things in life, Sir Winston. Thank you.
I like keeping things simple in life so there are two attributes that can be applied to about anything in life, especially speech: Planning and Delivery.
Let us study two of my heroes of speech and rhetoric.
PLANNING: Churchill’s “Our Finest Hour” Speech
Churchill grew up with a lisp and had to overcome incredible odds to become the speaker we know him as today. He was known early on in his political career as a rambler but over the decades, he transformed into a master of public speaking. How did he do it? Churchill would often say that for every minute in a speech one should prepare an hour. His work ethic was untouchable and it helped eventually him do best what was needed in the moment. In Churchill’s preparation, he knew that his pause was his secret weapon. By intense planning, he knew when to best use the pause. Churchill has given thousands of speeches that you will neither hear nor read in life but if you could only read one, read his amazing “Our Finest Hour” speech. Whenever you feel down and frustrated by life’s circumstances, it will uplift your spirit. If you are in that Dunkirk point of life in retreat as the Allies were; learn from the Brits and regroup, reassess, and get back in the game. You can read the full speech here.
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”
DELIVERY: FDR’s Message to Congress after Pearl Harbor
Draft #1: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in ‘world history’….”
Following the sudden and deliberate attack on the United States, FDR knew this was a moment to capture emotion and reason so in his final draft he changed ‘world history’ to ‘infamy.’ Read the original version a few times and you realize that it doesn’t fully embrace the magnitude of what happened at Pearl Harbor. It is now one of the most famous opening speech lines ever. Can you imagine trying to describe the emotion of a nation on the fly like FDR? He mastered the moment and a nation became united and galvanized for war.
What does this mean to you?
Part of your planning must be to anticipate the moments that could come. You must plan for the moment in the same way that you planned how to get there. Over my years as a history student, I studied Churchill and FDR extensively. Today, I become discouraged occasionally and think, “I can’t do it like them. I am not even in a position of ultimate leadership that would require this sort of planning and skill.” But I then realize that I am wrong. My team, which includes my family, look to me daily to master these skills of planning and mastering the moment.
Remember that yes you can do it.
Keep it simple. Plan, and plan for the moment.