When we are working on a speech, we want to connect with the audience; thus we like to include metaphors that will resonate with them. You don't have to struggle, but come up with good metaphors from your experience. You can speak to that from the heart since you have experienced it. You will find that it resonates with the audience than using metaphors that were not part of your experience.
One of the most powerful metaphor that Martin Luther King, Jr (MLK) used in his "I Have a Dream" speech had to do with the promissory note that African Americans have not been able to cash due to "insufficient funds"; hence, why they have come to March on Washington and beyond till that check is cashed.
But did you ever wonder how did he come up with that pointed metaphor? Well, I finally got the answer to this from reading the excellent book Behind The Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation by Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly. Jones should know since he helped MLK with the speech.
Here is how that metaphor made it into the speech. It had to do with MLK being jailed in Birmingham, Alabama city jail in the spring of 1963. MLK used that time in jail to write without any distraction which came to be known as "Letters from a Birmingham Jail."
But there was another problem that could have hurt his standing as a leader of the non-violent Civil Rights Movement if it was not resolved quickly. It had to do with many young men from the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) who were also jailed from protesting. The SCLC was getting a lot of heat from parents whose children were jailed. Also, MLK was getting a bad press from the letter written by the white clergy about the negatives of such kind of protests. The youngest of the jailed protesters had to be bailed out immediately before it tarnished MLK's reputation and hurt the movement.
But where to come up with the bail money? The movement did not have the money that would be needed to free many young protesters.
Through the help of actor Harry Belafonte, Jones was connected to Nelson Rockefeller's speechwriter, Hugh Morrow, who informed Jones that the Rockefeller family would like to help Dr. King.
Jones soon met with Nelson Rockefeller and Hugh Morrow at a Chase Manhattan Bank on a Saturday when banks are usually closed unless you happened to own one. The banker needed Jones to sign a promissory note for $100,000. The idea of signing this note scared Jones since he had no money to pay back. But he signed it anyway on the urging of Nelson Rockefeller who said, "You don't need to worry about it." After everything was worked out with the youngest of the protesters, Jones received an envelope a few days later from a messenger marked "Personal and Confidential." Jones opened it and saw the promissory note that he had signed with a red rubber stamp on it saying, "PAID."
This gave Jones the idea to include that in MLK's speech that indicated that they had come to Washington D.C. to finally cash the check that they have been given by the government. Here is what MLK said in his speech:
"It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check: a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
Now, this was the process that resulted in this powerful metaphor making it into one of the greatest speeches ever given. But you can also come up with an effective metaphor by simply observing and reflecting on your experience. And if you do that, then your speech can be both memorable but inspirational.
Jay Oza is a writer, speaker, executive coach. He makes people thrive on high stakes stage whether ii is job interviews, sales presentation or an important speech. He is the author of the book Winning Speech Moments: How to Achieve Your Objective with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. In addition he was recognized with an award from Hire Heroes USA for his volunteer work with military veterans and their spouses. coaching them get good high-paying jobs transitioning from military to civilian life.
Please download the speech checklist and the speech workbook to help you with your next high stakes speech. You can get more information at www.winningspeechmoments.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 732-847-9877. If you have a high stakes event coming, contact him right away. It could be the difference between winning and losing.
"The most moving thing in a speech is always the logic." -- Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan’s speechwriter.
Inspirational speakers are so rare that they are known by their speeches such as “Tear Down this Wall,” “I Have a Dream,” “Gettysburg Address,” “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” etc. They are so great that they change history. It is the pinnacle of public speaking. They may use all kinds of performing techniques, but what moves their speeches is their clear, understandable and compelling logic. Without solid logic, people are not going to have reasons long after you deliver the speech to spread the message and take action. I think in the United States, three inspirational speeches stand out above all on how it changed history.
The main part of an inspirational speech is its logic. You can't save a speech that has logic that can’t withstand scrutiny. Many speakers often focus on telling stories or injecting humor in their speeches. They will only work if they help make the logic clearer. If you have a lot of stories and humor but weak logic then you are mostly entertaining and not making your audience smarter.
A speech is binary in that it either has good logic or bad logic. If a speech has bad logic, then the person is either an entertainer, a fool or evil. You may not be good at telling stories or use humor, but there is no excuse for having bad logic. Bad logic means you can't think well.
The whole point of giving a speech is to have one big idea that you want to convey logically. Once you have the logic right, then you can keep polishing your speech with stories and humor if you are good at it. Stories and humor are not necessary for speech, but good logic is a must. You have to work on making your logic so simple that anyone can understand it. If the logic makes your audience smarter, then they are more likely to make others smarter and spread your message.
Logic closes the deal
If your logic is simple, then people will remember it and will spread the message or take action. Bad logic may work in the short-term, but it can't stand the test of time. The simple the logic, the more persuasive the speech is. I will look at three historic speeches to show that what was really beautiful about these speeches was its simple logic. The logic led to action. Logic is cold, and speakers don't understand its importance and tend to minimize it or ignore it. Emotions are hot and emphasized since the reaction is immediate. Also, speakers want instant feedback and emotions to achieve that. But emotions can't carry the day for long and gets cold gradually, whereas the logic gets warmer over time. Logic's temperature does not fluctuate the way emotions' temperature does.
An excellent example of great simple logic is how the United States as a country has evolved. The United States has gone through three major versions since its start, and they all had a speech tied to its evolution. First I will look at Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, then Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg speech and close with Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
Patrick Henry's Speech Helped Create United States Version 1.0
Patrick Henry, a planter, an American politician and a Founding Father, gave his famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech during the meeting of the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, in Richmond, VA. Henry was trying to persuade the delegates to declare war against the British to seek liberty.
Henry's logic was straightforward. He framed his logic regarding freedom and slavery.
British can't be trusted based on their past acts.
British are saying conciliatory things to buy more time so they can get their armies and navies to crush the opposition.
Henry's Call to Action
Time for talk is over; it's time to fight.
He ends the speech with a call "Give me liberty or give me death."
Look at the simplicity of Henry's logic. Do you want to control your destiny by fighting for a new nation or subject yourself and your children and grandchildren to live under tyranny? The delegates at the convention were stunned by his speech, but when they collected their thoughts, they passed Henry's resolution to go to war with the British.
Henry's logic won because his logic was simple and clarified the course of action with his oratory. Henry's speech helped create the United States to become a new nation that I call Version 1.0 (using tech speak).
Abraham Lincoln's Speech Helped Create United States Version 2.0
I like to refer to the Gettysburg Address as United States Version 2.0 as Lincoln redefined the nation by ending slavery. Peggy Noonan writes in her book "Simply Speaking: How to Communicate Your Ideas with Style, Substance, and Clarity" that "It contained the logic of the war." It was a speech that "defined things."
The Founding Fathers created America as an experiment that all "men are created equal."
The Civil War is testing whether this experiment can still apply today.
The people who sacrificed their lives proved that the experiment can even work today.
Lincoln's Call to Action
It is up to the living to ensure that the experiment continues and makes the nation stronger and better.
The speech was so powerful that Edward Everett, the orator for the event realized that his two hours of oration barely touched the main idea that Lincoln conveyed in 272 words. Noonan writes in her book that Everett wrote to Lincoln that "I shall be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."
Lincoln's logic is so simple that he saw no need to add any more words. Lincoln redefined the nation in just 272 words. Even if you say those words slowly, it takes less than three minutes. If Lincoln can redefine the nation in 272 words, then what is our excuse for getting our message across with more than 272 words. Great speeches are great because their logic is simple, clear and purposeful and have stood the test of time.
Martin Luther King's (MLK) speech that helped create United States Version 3.0
MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech is very logical and helped bring about the passing of Civil Rights Law.
Abraham Lincoln helped free the slaves, but they are still not free like others.
African Americans are still not able to participate in the great American experiment that guaranteed them "unalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness."
Time has come for African American to be free as envisioned by the Declaration of Independence.
Until that happens, African Americans are going to continue their peaceful protests to end injustices and indignities they face every day.
He has a dream of America where everyone can be free to enjoy the fruits of liberty and are judged based on the content of their character.
King's Call to Action
America must redefine itself where this becomes a reality rather than still being a dream for many.
And it did happen first with the passing of the Civil Rights Bill, so the law provided adequate protections and gradually by changing the mindsets of people all across the land.
And today though Version 3.X has more dot releases to go before it is a stable and solid version, the experiment still goes on to create a better version of America.
These three speeches endure not because they connected with people under difficult circumstances, but they used simple logic that anyone could understand. Speeches are deemed good because it is built on good logic that leads to good solutions. Good oratory combined with good logic results in action without exerting force or threat.
There was another person who was able to captivate people with his excellent speaking skills, and his name was Adolf Hitler. Today, we can't remember a single speech that he gave because his logic was flawed. He blamed the Jews, the Communists, and others for Germany's problems. Because of his propaganda machine, he was able to fool people and world leaders. By the time people realized what they were dealing with, Hitler had caused tremendous destruction and caused millions of deaths. In the long term, bad logic leads to bad results.
Speeches have to endure not for its oratory but for its clear logic. If you want to persuade people, get the logic right first, make it simpler, and empower your audience. If you do that, then you will inspire people to take action and spread your message.
Jay Oza is a writer, speaker, executive coach. He makes people thrive on high stakes stage whether ii is job interviews, sales presentation or an important speech. He is the author of the book Winning Speech Moments: How to Achieve Your Objective with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. In addition he was recognized with an award from Hire Heroes USA for his volunteer work with military veterans and their spouses.
Please download the speech checklist and the speech workbook to help you with your next high stakes speech. You can get more information at www.winningspeechmoments.com. You can contact him at email@example.com if you need help where you want to thrive on a high stakes stage.
Joe Girardi's firing proves that communication skill trumps competence
It came as a big surprise when the New York Yankees decided not to renew the contract of their manager, Joe Girardi, who had held the position since 2008. During his term, he had accumulated a regular season winning percentage of .562 and postseason winning percentage of .538. He had the fifth winningest record among the Yankees coaches. Under his leadership, the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, and everyone was surprised in 2017, when his team came within one game of beating the Houston Astros (the eventual world champion) to make it to the World Series. So by any standard, Joe Girardi was a highly competent manager.
So why did the Yankees upper management decide not to renew Joe Girardi's contract?
According to Brian Cashman, Yankees' general manager, Joe Girardi was fired because of his poor communication skills in relating to younger players on the team. The team wanted to go in a different direction. What Cashman was signaling is that competence alone is no longer sufficient to be a manager. Today, a baseball manager must differentiate himself through his communication skills.
When you think about it, this makes sense, since baseball no longer depends on the knowledge, experience, and insight of a manager as it did before the use of sabermetrics (an application of statistical analysis of baseball data to make decisions). Competence is now table stakes in baseball, since all teams are now playing "Moneyball." The advantage that the Oakland Athletics had when they started using analytics is over; the playing field is even now. A baseball manager today, as the Yankees have demonstrated, is judged highly on his ability to communicate effectively with players, upper management, media, fans, sponsors, charities, etc. Communication has now become a critical skill for success.
And the Yankees management was apparently using communication as their excuse for replacing Girardi, since they hired Aaron Boone, even though he had no managerial experience. Boone is an ex-player and comes from a baseball family, but he has never managed a baseball team at any level His latest experience evidently has prepared him well for what the New York Yankees are looking for, though: ESPN analyst. You don't get to be an analyst of the premier sports network unless you have proven communication skills.
Why hire Aaron Boone?
Hiring for excellent communication skills is not unique to baseball. We saw this in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump. He defeated Hillary Clinton, who probably had the best résumé of any presidential candidate who ran for office. The American people elected a person who had proven communication experience; they had seen him for many years on the TV show Apprentice and had watched him commenting on Fox News even though he did not have any political experience. People have a hard time judging you by the work you do, but they can easily judge you by your frequent appearance on traditional as well as social media. The more people see you as you want them to see you, the more they will think that you can also do the job.
I believe this is the new trend today, since right after Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was fired by Donald Trump, he did not join some prestigious law firm. Instead, he became a CNN senior legal analyst and started hosting his podcast discussing the Mueller investigation. By continuing to be visible, Bharara will have many more options open up for him than if he were not publicly visible. Today people and key decision makers have to see you working, and the only way they can see that is if you are communicating publicly often and well. Today communication is wealth whether it is financial, political, intellectual, or social.
You may say that having good communication skills applies only to high-profile people, but this is going to be the rule for all of us. Why? Emerging technologies such as Big Data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have made it essential that you know how to work with technology to solve problems quickly. As in baseball, everyone who is considered for a managerial position is comfortable with sabermetrics. Sabermetrics has become table stakes today. Similarly, what you are competent in is also table stakes to get or to keep a good high-paying job. You have to win the job and keep the job through your excellent communication skills.
If you want the job today, you must first identify all the people you will need to communicate with and then know how to communicate with them effectively so you can engage, connect, and influence. Otherwise, you will not be considered, let alone hired. And if you do have a good high-paying job right now, you’d better fix this fast, or you are likely to meet the same fate as Joe Girardi.
Welcome to Major League Baseball!
Jay Oza is a writer, speaker, executive coach and a student. He has worked as a programmer, a technical sales consultant and an alliance manager before reinventing himself. He volunteers for Hire Heroes USA mentoring and coaching experienced military veterans get executive level jobs. He is an author of Winning Speech Moments: How to Achieve Your Objective With Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. Please download the free speech checklist and the free speech workbook to help you with your next high stakes speech. I will add you to my newsletter list so I can provide you tips, techniques and insights on speaking and other related subjects every two weeks. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.