What do Joshua Bell and Aristotle Have in Common?

For my blog post today I’m linking to a video crafted by my good friend and fellow coach and blogger Conor Neill. In it, he tells the story of famous violinist Joshua Bell playing in the subway and being ignored by hundreds of people walking by, despite the fact that he played to a sell-out crowd days earlier in Boston’s Symphony Hall. Conor brilliantly explains the mystery using Aristotle and ideas of… Read More

How to write a great speech

A great speech puts the occasion, the audience, and the speaker together in an unforgettable way. All three pieces of the rhetorical puzzle are important. When Churchill was going to give his famous ‘Iron Curtain’ speech after WW II, he didn’t go over to the House of Commons, where he delivered most of his orations. Churchill knew that the speech would be controversial, since the post-war world was not in the mood… Read More

People I’m Grateful for #11: Robert Cialdini

There is one book that everyone needs to know on why people do what they do.  It’s called Influence:  The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini, and it is a classic.  Cialdini is professor emeritus of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University.  He doesn’t speak often about persuasion, but he has people approved to speak on the subject for him, so if you get a chance to hear a Cialdini… Read More

The Secret to Powerful Communication in 2 Words

If I had to sum up in two words everything I’ve learned in 25 years of work on communications, rhetoric, public speaking, speechwriting, and body language, those two words would be:  charismatic storytelling. Charismatic because in an over-stimulated, impatient world, it’s passion and charisma that get attention.  But passion alone doesn’t get you to charisma; that magic ingredient takes a little additional work.   Storytelling, because we’ve already got way too much… Read More

How to tell powerful stories in your speeches

Why tell stories in speeches? Because they are interesting, they help people remember what you say, and they are a good way to convey information and emotion memorably. Mark Turner, a writer and philosopher who has been associated with the Institute for Advanced Study, and the Center for Neural and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Maryland, goes even further. In his landmark book, The Literary Mind, published by Oxford in 1996,… Read More

Persuasion is a Physical Act

Persuasion is a physical act, as well as a verbal one.  Here I tell a story that underlines the importance of thinking about both aspects of persuasion when you're trying to convince someone of something.  Enjoy!    

Aristotle Was Wrong

We want to persuade people to do something new.  It’s one of those fundamental – and fundamentally important – human acts.  And, it’s a tall order. But it is the essence of speech making: to move people to action. Anything else is wasted effort, because people simply don’t remember much of what they hear. It’s not a good format for imparting information. It is a good format for persuading people to believe… Read More

Basic principles of persuasive rhetoric – 7

Principle VII: Authenticity and charisma in content require self-revelation in this confessional age. Being willing to confess something, even if it’s small, is table stakes in this age, surrounded as we are by the no-holds-barred, tell-all, celebrity-infatuated media, which constantly dish up the most intimate details of the lives, real or imagined, of these people and organizations. Our culture is obsessed with being in the know, whether it’s the inner workings of… Read More

Basic Principles of Persuasive Rhetoric – 6

Principle VI: Persuasive communication cuts through the clutter of information overload by dealing with safety issues. Turn Maslow’s hierarchy of needs upside down in your mind. Maslow said that we take care of our needs in order, from the most basic to the more refined. So, we take care of physiological needs first — food and shelter, say — before we worry about love, esteem, or self – actualization. Maslow looked ahead… Read More

Basic Principles of Persuasive Rhetoric – 4

Principle IV: Persuasive rhetoric deals in stories, facts, and tropes Stories, facts, and tropes are your tools for building effective, emotionally convincing communications. Used properly — stories liberally, facts carefully, and tropes sparingly — they will give your communications zest, interest, and charisma. Failure to use them will result in communications no one else wants to listen to. I begin with stories. There are five basic stories in Western culture: the quest,… Read More