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Speaking Inspirationally: Aim for the Heart!

February 25, 2014

Lloyd George“I have a dream…”,  “we shall fight on the beaches…”, “yer get oot there – and knobble ‘em” – that last was Alex Ferguson, by the way, delivering one of his haircuts!

How do you inspire an audience?  Here, I suggest, are three key elements: establish your credentials, involve the emotions of your audience and harness the power of repetition.

Ferguson didn’t need to establish his credentials – his select audience of footballers knew exactly who he was.  But we do.  We don’t have a mansion full of silverware to give us credibility. So when we give a speech we need to set out why our opinion matters.  When I give my son’s football team a motivational talk before the match, I sometimes remind them that I am a former international player – for the British Virgin Islands!  Yes – when I used to live there in the 1970s, we once played a team from a visiting Royal Navy warship – and I came on as a sub – in the last three minutes!

Second, inspiration is all about emotion, not fact.  An inspirational speech speaks to the heart, not the head.  Here is one example, quite appropriate during this centenary of the Great War.  In April 1917, the USA finally declared war on Germany, fighting alongside the British, rather than against them, for the first time since before the war of independence.  The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, gave an address to the US Ambassador in London and used the occasion to inspire the American people on the worthiness of the cause and their decision.  Here is an extract:

“I rejoice as a democrat that the advent of the United States into this war gives the final stamp and seal to the character of the conflict as a struggle against military autocracy throughout the world. The United States of America have the noble tradition, never broken, of having never engaged in war except for liberty.  And this is the greatest struggle for liberty that they have ever embarked upon.”

The third factor is repetition.  Martin Luther King used “I have a dream” a dozen or so times in that famous speech. In his address to the US ambassador, Lloyd George used the words free, freedom or liberty twenty five times.  He praises the American people for having fought for their own freedom and for having inspired the subsequent revolutions in France and Russia.  Through this conflict, they could do the same for Germany.  Here’s another extract:

“When France in the eighteenth century sent her soldiers to America to fight for the freedom and independence of that land, France also was an autocracy.  But Frenchmen in America, once they were there – their aim was freedom, their atmosphere was freedom, their inspiration was freedom.  They acquired a taste for freedom, and they took it home.  And France became free.”

So, should you wish to give an inspirational speech, remember three things: establish your authority, speak to the heart and hammer the message home through the power, the emotional power, the inspirational power – of repetition.

VE

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