Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How to give a speech: learning from Churchill

I found these old, but useful notes from a talk given by James Humes.

Humes was a speechwriter for every Republican president between Ike and Bush '41, a student of Churchill, and a historian of public speaking and great speakers.

Churchill's five principles on language via James Humes:

1. Begin strongly.
"Don't start off with a stupid joke"
"Don't say, 'It gives me great pleasure to be here today'."

2. Have one theme.
"Know in one sentence what you want the audience to walk away with,"
"Be able to write it on the back of a pack of matches."

3. Use simple language.
Avoid the passive voice and polysyllabic Latinate words.
Eisenhower preferred bureaucratic words like "finalize" but Churchill would have said "finish" or "end."

4. Always paint a picture in the listener's mind.
"People can't see 'cost benefit' or 'capital insufficiency',"
When Churchill used "iron curtain," "You could almost hear the gate come crashing down."

5. End on emotion -- be it patriotism, love of God, or love of family.

Don't be afraid to give the same speech many times. "When you hear a great speech, you know it's something someone has delivered many times,"

A useful review of one of Humes books is here.

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