I have just returned from listening to some remarkable speeches; and there was one speaker who left me with that feeling – “Wow! That was Good.” 

I am sure that all of you have been impressed by presentations you have heard at sometime or other, but have you ever given thought to exactly why they impressed you?

At our workshops we ask our participants exactly what they want to get out of their day with us; and usually it is how to get over their fear of standing up and speaking out.  But there are times when we are asked to ‘give them the Wow factor’ or ‘tell us how to impress our audience.’

Now there are many ways in which we can show how getting the balance right can improve their chances of doing just that; but I wonder if they have thought about what they consider to be that elusive ‘Wow’ factor; or what it is about a speech or speaker that really impresses them.

That can be a catch, because we are mostly impressed at first by the flamboyant; the highly charismatic speaker; the one that creates emotion in us and can wring us out with it.  Alas, not all charismatic speakers have the strong foundation on which to build that truly impressive speech.

To discover what really works, I recommend that you analyse some accepted winning speeches; Churchill’s – ‘Fight them on the beaches’ speech is one that most people agree stirs the emotions.  It was first delivered in the British House of Commons; which is not really an auspicious start for a charismatic ‘Wow’ speech.

What about The Gettysburg Address? This is probably one of the shortest speeches in history, but one which has left an echo throughout time.  And by all accounts no-one considered Lincoln a ‘charismatic’ speaker; but in this case he certainly delivered on the Wow factor.

Neither of these speakers depended on overblown rhetoric, there was no hand clapping, no energy raising techniques to falsify the emotional impact – there was only clear intent, passionate determination and a speech that was so well constructed that it electrified.

To discover just what these speakers did to create speeches that still resonate today, you can sit down and read exactly what they said and analyse what their aim was.  For if we do not have a clear and focused aim; that is a specific outcome that we intend to achieve – we don’t know how to recognise if we have reached it.

Take the speech or the extract and see if you can identify what the message was, what was their dominant purpose?  What do you think was the precise effect they want it to have on their audience?  Was Churchill’s purpose to soften the British people up for a likely defeat?  Did Lincoln want his listeners just to pack up and go home after the dedication just wondering what was for dinner?

So how did Lincoln and Churchill achieve that purpose?  What arguments, what rhetorical devices did they use to show the determination of their purpose?

Analysing successful speeches allows us to get a glimpse into the mind of the people who created them.  By seeing what stratagems these successful speakers used, we can trial them in our speeches to see if we too can begin to develop the ‘Wow factor.’

Because no matter how charismatic the speaker, unless there is a real message persuasively delivered we may energise our audience for the moment, but we will be a disappointment in the long run.

If we can find the elusive ‘Wow’ factor, it will allow us to use all the charismatic delivery techniques at our disposal, knowing full well that we are building our speech on strong foundations that will stand up to scrutiny when the ‘Wow’ wears off!

And to help you start here are the speeches that I cited:

1.         Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons on the 4th June 1940 – when Britain truly faced the wrath of Hitler alone.

2.         Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, Delivered at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery on 19th November 1863.

Read them carefully and see what really gives a great speech the ‘Wow factor’

Michele @ Trischel

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