Can anyone become a great speaker?

Can anyone become a great speaker? I get asked that question surprisingly often. And people struggle with the answer I give them: yes, if you’re willing to do the work. I think what they want to hear is, no, it’s something you’re born with (or not). Because that latter answer would let them off the hook. So what is involved in becoming a great speaker? If you’re serious about it, you have… Read More

How to make sure your 20-minute speech has a long-lasting impact

I’ve been working recently with clients on more and more 20-minute speeches. As I indicated in an earlier blog post, it’s the era of shorter speeches. Fidel Castro holds forth no more, and Hugo Chavez is gone altogether, so multi-hour practitioners are on the wane, but the rest of us are expected to bring it in under an hour more and more frequently. My fearless prediction is that 20-minute speeches will become… 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

Funny speeches: how to use humor in public speaking

Humor can be hazardous to the health of public speakers. Most speakers want to be funny, but you’ve got to do humor well, or it falls flat and that’s worse than no humor at all. Here I provide a guide for avoiding the worst mistakes of traditional one-liners and cheap irony, replacing them instead with ironic and witty humor that works and wins audiences over to your side. And, if you insist… 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