The Common Denominator
What did these 20 speeches, and these
great speakers do that so many others
did not, throughout the extraordinary
history of the 20th century? Why do
their words still remain and resonate
while so many others fade into the
emptiness of time? How did they capture their audiences in ways that shaped
their lives, and history itself?
Great speakers do five things that others don’t. If you get better at even one
of these, you and everyone else will
notice a big difference. Really—a very
All great speakers have a “lasered, compelling
message,” not a bunch of facts or random points
that they throw around like confetti.
3Connect! Have a conversation
with your audience as opposed to
a performance “at” or even “to”
them. Envelop them with your body
language, use a conversational tone of
voice, talk with them like everyone is
sitting with you in your living room.
This was the secret of FDR’s “Fireside
Chats” and a big part of the magic of
Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton. The greatest of the greats, like
Martin Luther King, actually connect
even deeper as they enter an almost
mystical place that I call “Being.” In this
place the boundary between speaker
and audience disappears as the speaker
becomes “naked” and so fully him or
herself that a sort of magical, spiritual
fusion takes place.
4Speak all four languages,
or frequencies, of human
Visual, by bringing some excitement
into your speeches.
Auditory, by making it all user-friendly
or telling an easy-to-understand story.
1As professional speakers, you and
the great speakers understand
intuitively that words (content)
contribute only a small percentage to
the ultimate impact of your message.
The four aspects of voice tone: 1) varying the volume, pace and pitch of your
voice, 2) punc-tu-a-ting the important
words and syllables, 3) generating resonance, and 4) using and milking “the
pause” contribute more than one-third
to the impact, and body language—
standing tall, moving with purpose,
making decisive gestures, having great
eye contact and using everything you
have to generate overall energy—make
the biggest contribution to how you
impact and move others.
Auditory Digital, by creating a foundation of details, facts and solid analysis, especially for those academic types
who are focused on this “language.”
Kinesthetic, the language that the
greatest speakers use the most, by
filling your speeches with feeling,
genuine emotion and creating a
profoundly human connection
between you and the audience. No
speech truly works without this.
Communication Effectiveness Continuum™
Performance Presentation Conversation/Being
0 5 10
“At” “To” “With”
2All great speakers have a
“lasered, compelling message,”
not a bunch of facts or random
points that they throw around like confetti. “Ask not what your country can
do for you . . . ”, “The only thing to
fear is fear itself,” “I have a dream”—
these are lasered, compelling messages,
and they certainly were compelling.
What is the single most important point
you want your audience to walk out
knowing? Start with that and weave it
through your entire speech.
It is the quality and the quantity of
your energy that impacts your audience. With a “performance” there is
very little of the real “you” and it is
broadcast to the audience in the most
impersonal way possible, like a shotgun. With a “presentation” you create a
straight line, a connection to your audience. This is better. But only by moving
to the right on this “Communication
Effectiveness Continuum,” like the
greats, will you create a circular energy
pattern, a “with-ness” that pulls your
audiences in and keeps them in.
5Do you have authentic passion?
Ask yourself one question before
you ever write or give another
speech. What is it about this topic that I
am truly passionate? When you find the
answer, go in that direction. If you
don’t get an answer, find another topic!
After speaking to 25 United States Senators in a conference room in the Senate Building, one thanked me later,
specifically for No. 5. “I now understand that I’ve been spending far too
much time obsessing over every little
word and that I should focus, instead,
on being more myself.”
No technique, no matter how great,
will ever be more important—or have
more impact—than being ourselves. It
is also the thing that sounds simple and
will be the most difficult to achieve.