What Makes a Memorable Speech? Six Tips to Get You Started January 20 2017

Public speaking is one of the things we most fear and yet we like nothing better than quoting lines from famous speeches made by others.  The age of the soundbite has enhanced not detracted from the importance of speeches - albeit in another form.  Just look at Twitter dominated by quotations from the past and present; whilst skilled wordsmiths are rewarded with hundreds of followers. Customers often request to have key lines from their favourite orator on one of our many plaques for a wall or door, to inspire action at times when the motivation is lacking.   At our barn on the farm, we are always impressed with the creative way words are used when we are creating plaques, ranging from rustic roses to vintage blue designs, to do justice to our customers’ text.

Churchill, Obama and Ghandi had the ability to tap into our hearts and minds, particularly during the darkest of times.  They show the power of words to change the world  - or at the very least to change the way we think about it.  How many people’s lives have been transformed by Ghandi’s, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’?  How many people have had the courage to live a more adventurous life with Eleanor Roosevelt’s, ‘Do one thing everyday that scares you,’ echoing in their ears?  The internet means that we are only a few clicks away from a speech to amaze and inspire us.

So how do you do write your own? A great speech is a crafted and like all crafts it is something that can be learned.  One of the best books on the art of oratory is Sam Leith’s ‘You Talkin’ to Me?  Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama’.  For those of us who are a little short on time, here are a few key tips to make your words memorable:

1) Use tricolours or the power of three: this is a much-loved technique used by politicians.  It can even be the same idea of even word: remember Tony Blair’s ‘Education, education, education’ or even further back Julius Caesar’s ‘Veni, vidi, vici’ - ‘I came; I saw; I conquered’.  Think in threes to add emphasis and rhythm to your speech.

2) Use anaphora by starting neighbouring clauses with the same words:  this use of repetition will add clarity and emotion to your speech.  Charles Dickens’: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom…’ is one of  the most memorable openings of a novel which uses anaphora to the extreme.  An epiphora is the same technique but the repetition of the same words occurs at the end of the clauses.  More simply use Martin Luther King' approach of using repetition at the beginning of sentences.

3) Create pictures with your language by using similes and metaphors: comparing two things, using the words ‘as’ or ‘like’, make them much more vivid in your mind; for example, ‘she smells like a summer’s rose,’ is more insightful than, ‘she smells nice’.  A metaphor has the same effect but with greater impact by removing the words ‘as’ or ‘like’ it is much easier to embed in your speech; for example Shakespeare’s, ‘All the world is a stage,’ or ‘the blanket of the dark’.

4) Appeal to the senses: use words that make the sound of the object they describe (onomatopoeia): ‘snap’, ‘crackle’ and ‘pop’ all featured in a famous marketing campaign.

5) Ask questions:  rhetorical questions engage your listener by asking a question to make them think but not necessarily to provide an answer.  What could be easier than using all these techniques?

6) Make your speech feel familiar - but not too much! The art of allusion involves using references to other famous quotations, particularly if their ideas match yours.  However there is a big difference between using another's words where you acknowledge the source and copy and pasting as though they were your own (Melania Trump take note!).

A few skills, a little inspiration and a bespoke sign from Honeymellow, means you too can have your wise words preserved for posterity.  Whose life will your speech transform today?