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

shutterstock_66543772

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