How the choice of words can make a speech very powerful

Do you want to get your message across? Do you want to be an effective speaker?

Public speakers have many tools of the trade. Our tool box includes the:

  • Visuals/aids that we use.
  • Way to stand.
  • Way to move around.
  • Way to use our voice.

Some of the greatest speeches have been given by ordinary people with ordinary voices.

So as speakers or presenters, we also learn power of words – words that inspire, words that make us sad and words that encourage us to take action.

Words can take us on a roller coaster of emotions.

There are many famous speeches.

One of the most famous was Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. This was for a dedication of a war cemetery to the thousands of soldiers killed there.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

“…. that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Another famous speech was delivered by then Prime Minister, Paul Keating in Redfern, Sydney, to mark the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People in 1992.

“It was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life.

We brought the diseases and the alcohol.

We committed the murders.

We took the children from their mothers.

We practiced discrimination and exclusion.

It was our ignorance and our prejudice, and our failure to imagine that these things could be done to us.”

Words express powerful thoughts. They convey their message. Both Lincoln’s and Keating’s speeches were “stand and deliver” type speeches. Both stood and read or used notes.

They did not need movement or exaggeration. They both let their words convey their message.

Some speakers use big words. Big words are fine if people understand them.

But if you want everyone to understand, then you use straight forward words. You avoid jargon.

Visual words are very powerful: bridge, stepping stone, ladder of success, closing the gap.

You were “Busy as a bee”.

The night sky was “Black as coal”.

Positive words are good too.

“Be as brave as a lion” is better than “don’t be a scaredy cat”

As speakers, we often use positive stories to reinforce our points. Our speeches can be full of powerful stories. Stories that convey our messages very clearly.

To summarise:

    • Words can make an ordinary voice very powerful. Use them well. Tell stories. Create visual pictures.
    • Use words that people can understand. Be positive. Use positive language.
    • Sometimes what we say is more important than how we say it.

Advice for speakers from Franklin D. Roosevelt:

“Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

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