While good writing of any form should read aloud nicely, there are some unique tools you can use when drafting a speech to promote an impactful delivery. Many of history’s greatest speakers employed the same tactics world leaders and company executives continue to use when looking to inspire their audiences.
You shall use repetition. You shall make an impression in doing so. You shall, in this one circumstance, break the rules of writing for reading. In Churchill’s most moving speeches, ‘We Shall Fight on the Beaches’, the Prime Minister started a series of sentences with the phrase ‘we shall’. The nation’s confidence in the ability and resilience of the Allied Forces surged as a result, and Churchill went down in history as one of the world’s greatest orators.
Would you dare use rhetorical questions? Yes, you would. Just like John F. Kennedy did in his famous ‘Inauguration Address’ in which he asked the American people: “Can we forge against these enemies in a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?” Engaging or challenging your audience will make them take notice and consider your message. When paired with a strong message, the rhetorical question could help you make a lasting impression, too.
Don’t tip the scales. Heavy-handed sentences that don’t read well won’t speak well, either. Short, punchy phrases will roll off your tongue and set a natural rhythm that is both easy to speak and a pleasure to listen to. If you do use sentences with multiple clauses, look to add balance by inverting a concept. “We are here, not because we are law breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers,” said suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst during one of her multiple court appearances.
Speak in threes. Abraham Lincoln was the king of the trio. In his brief ‘Gettysburg Address’ he uses it twice. “We cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow this ground,” he says of the burial ground for soldiers killed in the American civil war. He continues to promise a government that is “of the people, by the people, for the people”. For evoking an emotional response, there is no greater rhetorical technique.
Choose your consonants wisely. Alliteration is the consecutive use of strong consonants to establish a more assertive tone. This technique can be particularly effective in the closing statements of a speech, as in Reagan’s 1987 challenge to Gorbachev to “open this gate… tear down this wall”. Note the use of hard-sounding ‘g’ and ‘t’ to build an guttural, offensive declaration against Gorbachev. In contrast, the use of soft consonants can have a more melodic effect. You will find one of the strongest examples of this kind of alliteration, known as ‘assonance’, in Obama’s ‘Inauguration Speech’. When declaring the equality of all people he references historic battles through “Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall… all those men and women, sung and unsung.”
If you would like some help getting people to sing your praises, please contact the speechwriting professionals at Stratton Craig today.