Martin Luther King and the Rule of Three

I’ve been thinking about Martin Luther King as a speaker again recently, because of the holiday, of course, but also because of the release of the movie Selma. And for one other reason: I often use King as an example of a great speaker when I’m working one-on-one with executives and professional speakers. No surprise there; King is one of the giants of the last century. What is surprising, perhaps, is that… Read More

How to Listen to a Speech


I post often about how to give a speech.  But most of us also find ourselves on the receiving end of speeches too, and listening to them is nearly as hard work as giving them.  So how do you listen critically and well to a speech to get the most out of it, and avoid the rhetorical traps the speaker may be setting for you? Following are three tips for getting the… Read More

A Comparison of Two Inaugurals: Kennedy v Obama

President Kennedy gave 3 State of the Union addresses, and they are almost completely forgotten today.  His Inaugural Address, on the other hand, is cited frequently, and whenever great political speechmaking is discussed.  Rhetorically elegant, memorable, and inspirational, the speech deserves its iconic status. What will be the fate of President Obama’s Second Inaugural?  Will it become a frequently cited speech with the power to move people to action, or will it… Read More

The 2012 Convention Speeches – the Highs, the Lows, and the Baffling

Analyzing the convention speeches for their rhetorical import has become a hazardous sport, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the political climate is so partisan that any commentary is immediately classed as merely pro or con a particular candidate or party and further discussion is useless.  Second, the rhetoric has become so pathetically paint-by-the-polling-numbers that frankly the speeches aren’t very interesting.  But nonetheless.  The conventions are one of those increasingly… 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

Becoming a Passionate Communicator

In this podcast, #8 in the series based on Trust Me:  Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma, I talk about 4 ways of speaking that convey passion appropriately.  Passion — done right — creates charisma, and memorable communications.  This podcast is just under 5 minutes.  Enjoy! Trust Me Podcast 8

Why the debt limit talks are doomed – a rhetorical analysis

This is the 4th podcast in my series based on Trust Me:  Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma.  In this podcast I discuss open content — the rhetorical rules for an open communication.  In looking at these essential conditions for successful communication, I discuss why the debt limit talks are failing as currently undertaken.  The podcast is just under 6 minutes – enjoy! Trust Me Podcast 4

How to write a great speech: 5 secrets for success

David McCloud, the Chief of Staff of the Governor of Virginia, taught me how to write a great speech:  •    Great speeches are primarily emotional, not logical  •    Small shifts in tone make an enormous difference to the audience, so sweat the details  •    A great speech has a clear voice speaking throughout•    A great speech conveys one idea only, though it can have lots of supporting points•    A great speech answers… Read More

What to do when the missiles are incoming

One of the hazards of speaking in public is that some percentage of the audience will not agree with you.  And some small percentage of that group will express itself physically.  Political figures most often run this risk, but anyone who represents an organization or cause faces a similar risk.  The most famous of such incidents, at least measured by YouTube views, was former President Bush’s encounter with an Iraqi shoe.   … 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