“S PEAK PLAIN AND TO THE PURPOSE.” -S HAKESPEARE “ Y OU OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO PUT YOUR BOTTOM - LINE MESSAGE ON THE INSIDE OF A MATCHBOOK — BEFORE YOU EVER START YOUR TYPEWRITER.” -D WIGHT D. EISENHOWER “F IND THE MESSAGE FIRST AND THE WORDS WILL FOLLOW.” -C ATO “E VERY JOURNEY BEGINS WITH THE FIRST STEP.” - CHINESE PROVERB
F INDING YOUR P OWER P OINT Before you even begin a speech, you need to know what your bottom-line message is that you want to leave with your audience. Figure out whom you are trying to reach and what message you want to send. While in Vietnam, a young marine who had been injured dictated a letter to a nurse to be sent to his wife. In the letter he mentioned, “The nurses here are a rather plain lot.” The nurse doing the transcribing interjected, “Don’t you think that is a bit unfair?” “You forget who I’m writing to,” said the marine to the nurse. A speech is like a symphony---it has three movements, but just one dominant melody. Churchill would always belt out the central chord of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, “da da da dum”---a symphony he was partial to because the four notes represented a “V”—for Victory---in Morse Code. He explained that Beethoven already had that chord drumming in his head before he wrote that symphony.
WINSTON CHURCHILL AND THE POWER POINT In 1937, Churchill spoke at a small dinner party where key members of the Conservative party were. His POWER POINT was this: The number of German Luftwaffe planes was 100 times the amount of the RAF inventory; therefore, they needed to start manufacturing planes now. To enhance his speech, he used a quote from George Washington, “The only way to ensure peace is to prepare for war.” He also used this anecdote: “It seems the zoo featured a cage where a lion and a lamb lived together in peace and harmony. It was a huge drawing card for visitors. One English tourist asked the zookeeper, “How did you find such a lion?” “The lion isn’t the hard thing,” replied the zoo man. “It’s the lamb. Every morning we need a new lamb.”
“A SPEECH THAT IS BRIEF, IF GOOD, IS GOOD TWICE OVER.”--C ERVANTES Ronald Reagan once told this story about the best sermon he had ever heard: “Eggs could have been fried on the steps of the Civil War Memorial in the Dixon town square, and the humidity was so thick that you could have ladled it out like soup. When it came time for the sermon, the preacher mounted the steps to the pulpit and faced the congregation. He pointed downward and said, “It’s hotter down there,” and then descended from the pulpit. That was his sermon!”
C ALVIN C OOLIDGE His nickname was “Silent Cal,” because he never wasted any words. Once, after the President had attended church, a reporter had this conversation with Coolidge: “What was the sermon about, Mr. President?” “Sin,” answered Coolidge. “What did he say about it?” “He was against it.” A woman in a receiving line at the White House once gushed to him, “Mr. President, I bet my husband I could get you to say more than two words.” “You lose,” was Coolidge’s reply.
“A STATISTIC SHOULD TELL A STORY.” - MARGARET T HATCHER Use only one statistic at a time. In 1958, the deficit reached one billion dollars for the first time. President Eisenhower tried to get the American people to comprehend the enormity of the debt by citing this statistic: “To understand the billion dollar deficit, imaging taking all the one-dollar bills in a billion and laying them out end to end. Why, it would more than go to the moon and back again!”
T HINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT STATS : Relate your statistics to your listeners. “I once heard an actuary describe the odds of one in a quadrillion. He likened that astronomical figure to one human hair among all the heads of the world.” A man came to Andrew Carnegie, the steel baron, and said, “Mr. Carnegie, you are the richest man in the world. Don’t you think you should share some of that?” “Yes,” said Carnegie, surprising the man. Carnegie then sent a note to his male secretary, who appeared in a few moments with a check for the caller in the amount of 32 cents. That number was derived by taking Carnegie’s wealth and hundreds of millions and dividing it by the population of the world.
M ORE YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT STATS : Compare to the familiar: “Kosovo is about 5,000 square miles—in other words, about the size of Connecticut.” “If we accept 99.99 % as our perfect goal, we’d have to accept these conditions: two unsafe landings a day at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and 15,000 pieces of mail lost by the U.S. Post Office every hour. “We ought to make May 15 th instead of April 15 th the deadline for income tax filing---because until May 15 th every dollar we make goes to the Federal Government.” “623,000 soldiers died in the Civil War…in other words, the dead of the Civil War exceeded the lives lost in all other wars the United States has fought, from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm.”
F INAL ADVICE ABOUT STATS : Round your statistics: “21.2 % of people choose decaf coffee for breakfast”= “one out of five.” “Three out of four death notices in California are whites but two out of three birth registrates are non-whites (Hispanic and Asian).” “By the end of the year, six out of ten British, including children and pensioners, will have their own mobile phones.” A full-page spread in the London Times featured three naked baby girls sitting on a bench, their backs to the camera. From left to right, the captions, one above each of the little girls, read: DOCTOR AUTHOR CANCER
P ARABLES PROVIDE PICTURES OF THE ABSTRACT Churchill said that an abstract idea goes in one ear and out the other---never establishing itself unless it is reinforced by a picture or a story. Jesus Christ never used the word “salvation,” Paul did. Instead, Jesus preached about a young man who blew his wad on wine, women, and song, then came back and said, “Dad, forgive me and let me have a second chance.” This is “salvation” expressed in a story. In 1864, Abraham Lincoln was looking like he would lose re-election until he gave a speech where he told an parable about the story of an Illinois farmer who wouldn’t change horses in the middle of the stream. That single story won him the re- election.
M ASTER THE ART OF S TORYTELLING … Tell stories for a purpose. Tell personal stories. Tell success stories. TRY OUT STORIES FIRST! Collect stories from history and your own life to make a point in a speech. Speechwriters often keep a file of 3 X 5 index cards with stories filed under themes or categories to use for different occasions. Know your history…pay attention in your history and English classes to gain more anecdotes to add to your collection!
E XAMPLES OF STORIES … When Franklin was our minister to France he attended a fancy ball in Versailles. He spotted King Louis XVI across the room. In his conversation with the French monarch, he pointed out a ‘thin mademoiselle.’ Although he knew that the king fancied the more voluptuous types, Franklin said, “Sire, there’s a pretty girl.” The king demurred, “Ah, Franklin, it’s a pity that God did not endow her, for she does no justice to her décolletage.” “True, Sire, but you can endow us because our country has the same problem as the young lady—an uncovered deficit.” The king laughed, and Franklin got the loan—money to keep George Washington’s Continental Army in the field.”
E XAMPLES OF STORIES … The close of the nineteenth century found a Swedish businessman settling down to his breakfast of kippers, eggs, and bacon. As he sipped his morning coffee, he glanced at the Stockholm Journal. To his astonishment, he found his picture emblazoned on the front page. He read further. It was an obituary! He knew at once that they had confused him with his brother, who had just died in the East Indies, but he had to read what they wrote about him. To his chagrin, he found phrases such as “Merchant of Munitions,” “Dealer of Destruction,” “Peddler of Death” applied to him. Immediately he called for his carriage to take him to his solicitor’s office. There he wrote a new will—a will that established the Nobel Peace Foundation.