Inspirational Speakers

Move the Masses: 3 Speaking Lessons from Martin Luther King

What if you could speak like Martin Luther King? Not everybody will move the masses with their oratory but here is what I've observed- Gifted speakers are born but effective speakers are made. Martin Luther King was one of the most gifted public speakers. But even he studied to master his craft. He developed the ability to move the masses with his mouth. Great leaders in history learned the power of the spoken word and became masters of the tongue. Most of us will not sway the masses but we can inspire and persuade our circle of influence by taking a lesson from Martin Luther King. Here are three techniques he used throughout his speeches to inspire his audience.

Vision.  All good speeches start with a vision. Before you begin writing, imagine your ultimate goal. What is your intention? What do you want the audience to see, hear, and feel as a result of your talk? They should be in a better place by the end of your presentation. If they can't see it, they won't follow.

Alliteration.  Martin Luther King made good use of rhetorical techniques such as storytelling, metaphor (promised land), (mountain top), and alliteration to inspire the crowds. His famous line "I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" is frequently quoted by many. Alliteration makes the message memorable.

Passion. The best speech writing is not a substitute for dispassionate delivery. If you sound like you're reading text, you will inspire nobody. Great speakers have a fire in their belly. It's the emotion that moves an audience. So tap into your feelings and talk from the heart. The key word in emotion is motion. When the audience feels the emotion and it's backed up with logic you will move them to action.

Speak Your Way to Phenomenal Success

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The Power of One Voice

Josephine "Jody" Prestovino single-handedly brought missing federal supplies to Staten Island, New York by using her voice. Jody lost her home during hurricane Sandy and spoke on behalf of her own community with no media training. She looked directly at the camera and said, "Obama promised to cut through the red tape, but we've seen nothing. Nobody is here." It's because she spoke with conviction and passion that she had an impact.

Because she spoke out, supplies started coming in. Janet Napolitano wanted to speak with her personally. My husband and I ran into her in a local coffee shop in Staten Island and congratulated her on her leadership and presentation. Everyone is a leader, everyone is a public speaker - when you speak from conviction and passion. When you do a good job as a public speaker or presenter, you'll be invited back. Such was the case for Jody. You'll see in this video the reporter asks her opinion. Her emotion and passion are still evident.

Where do you feel great passion? That's where your power lies. Speak from that place and you'll move mountains. It only takes the power of one voice.

Here's a link to her interview on NBC:

What Seasoned Speakers Know That You Don't

National Speakers Association convention is where you'll find the top speakers in the world on the main stage. A number of years ago, I attended a convention. One of the keynote speakers gave an inspiring and tear jerking presentation. He spoke about how he and his wife couldn't have children so they adopted a couple of boys. They were brothers who were not well treated and were put up for adoption. He told the audience about how difficult it was to gain their trust and parent them. He recounted all the troubled times. In the end, the little boys flourished and his wife discovered she was pregnant. The speaker then brought the little boys on stage. To say there wasn't a dry eye in the house is an understatement. The tears were streaming down my face. My friend looked over and said, "Are you all right?" I told him "I can't take it." The entire audience was overwhelmed by emotion. This speaker was able to pierce each person's heart and trigger an emotional reaction. It takes skill to tell a story that has so much emotional impact. This is a good thing, isn't it? Well, maybe. But this speaker did the one thing you should never do from the platform...

On Sunday morning I watched Joel Osteen, the motivational speaker and pastor of Lakewood Church. He too, had an emotional story to tell. It was about a country singer.

At a young age this singer, had strayed from his values and started hanging around with the wrong crowd.  He got involved with alcohol and drugs. His name was on billboards everywhere and Joel's mother would notice the singer's name every time they passed the billboard on the road. Although, she had never met him, she would say a prayer for him. This ritual went on for more than a year. Then one day when the country singer was feeling down on his luck, he wandered into the church where Joel's father was the pastor. An usher recognized him and alerted Joel's mother. She immediately got up and embraced him. She told him about all the times she had prayed for him.

After telling this story, Joel pointed to the country singer who was sitting in the front row. As the camera zoomed in on him, you could see the singer wiping away his tears.   It was an emotional crescendo. The audience burst into applause.  And, at that moment, Joel said, "Aw, he's not that good." The audience broke into laughter.

Joel did something the first speaker forgot to do. The first speaker opened us up, raw with emotion, and left us there. It was like a surgeon opening a wound but forgetting to close it back up.   Joel used humor to break the tension. A seasoned speaker can take you on a roller coaster of emotions. You'll experience the exhilaration of the highs and lows. But they will always bring you back to solid ground. And one of the best ways to do this is through humor.

You may be a good storyteller who can open people to their emotions. But do you finish the job by closing them back up? As a speaker, you have the power of the spoken word. Remember you have the emotions of the audience in your hands. Use your power carefully.

The Speaking Secret of Inspirational Leaders

November is Inspirational Role Models MonthHave you ever wondered why some leaders are more inspirational than others? Here's the secret. They speak from the inside out. Where most leaders speak about the WHAT and the HOW, leaders who inspire audiences with their message do one thing differently. They speak about the WHY. Steve JobsAn example of this is Steve Jobs of Apple.  His mantra was "Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo." It's his WHY for his company. That's why he inspired a strong cult-like following. His customers are more than buyers. They are believers who want to "think different".

Martin Luther King, Jr SpeaksMartin Luther King wasn't the only leader who believed in civil rights yet he was the one who inspired a national march on Washington. He spoke from his WHY. He didn't talk about facts. He said, "I believe. I have a dream." It became a movement that went beyond the African-American community. It was a universal cause that people could believe in.

Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, surprised the media with the overwhelming success of his book. His belief that "God Has a Plan for You," tapped into a deep, emotional need regardless of religious orientation. It's a message that is bigger than the individual and people connected emotionally.

We now know the neurological reason these speakers are able to inspire.  When a speaker talks about the WHAT and the HOW, the message appeals to the neocortex of the brain. This is the center of rational thought. People are not generally moved to action by facts and figures.

When you talk from your WHY, you speak directly to the limbic brain. The limbic brain appeals to trust, loyalty, and emotion. People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

So, what is your WHY? Why do you do what you do? What do you believe? Think about those leaders who inspire others, whether it's one-on-one or to a large audience.  Who are your inspirational role models?


Click to read BusinessWeek's article: 10 Attributes of Leaders Who Inspire

Steve Jobs-A Visionary, Gamechanger, and Role Model for Public Speakers

Steve Jobs changed the world as we knew it. He also served as a role model for motivational speakers. In 2005, he gave the commencement address at Stanford. Unlike the typical unremarkable and easily forgetable speeches, Steve gave a knockout commencement speech.  Forgoing the usual platitudes, famous quotes, and boring directives, Steve told a heartfelt story about his journey, which turned out to be the classic hero's journey. But he told it in a way that every student could relate to. He  used the 'rule of three' by telling three stories and wrapping them in the theme of " Do What You Love".  So simply put, tell your story, speak to the heart, and remember the rule of three.  Steve Jobs left an indelible mark on the world-as a visionary, a creative genius, an entrepreneur, and a public speaker.  To read the commencement speech click here.

David Cameron's Knockout Presentation-Not Afraid to Confront

Politics aside, Prime Minister David Cameron gave an effective speech yesterday in response to the London riots. I'm not a British citizen and I don't know their experience.  What I do know is that Cameron responded by speaking clearly and to the point. He began with a clear purpose statement. "I'd like to update you on the latest situation and the actions we're taking to get this despicable violence off our streets." He paused after the word "violence" to let it land and wasn't afraid to use emotional words (despicable). He then quantified the results. "There are 16, 000 police on the streets," "450 people have been arrested".  Mr. Cameron went on to acknowledge all who contributed to the emergency services. In a politically correct society it's refreshing to know he's not afraid to condemn negative behavior and used words such as "sickening", "appalling", and "thugs". His tone was serious, impassioned, and strong. As a public speaker, he put a stake in the ground and took a strong stand. Listen to his presentation and make note of his direct, clear, and congruent speaking style.

The King's Speech-If He Can Do It So Can You

I just saw the movie, The King's Speech starring Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth. It's the story about King George and his struggle to overcome severe stuttering and the relationship between him and his speech coach. As a Speech Pathologist who worked with stutterers and as a speaking strategist  who coaches executives, it was a powerful reminder  to me of the gift of speech.  King George was thrust into a leadership role he didn't want and  had to  inspire a nation during World War II. How do you do that without speaking? The answer is -you don't.  Enter the speech coach. It was inspiring to watch King George  overcome  his struggles, resistance to coaching, and outright fear.  He confronted his biggest fear and won!

While only 1% of the population stutters, most people fear public speaking. When first working with clients, I see the same fears, resistance, and avoidance that was portrayed in the movie. And yet, without the gift of speech, lives and careers are negatively  impacted. Today more than ever you must be able to present yourself, your message, and your value.

Speaking is the new competitive weapon. In  a competitive job market, candidates who have the best communication and speaking skills have the advantage. Leaders who have good presentation skills are better positioned for success. Sales people who are good public speakers can better influence. Industry experts with good public speaking skills get invited to convey their message at prestigious conferences, and authors who speak well get invited back for media interviews.

Your presentation is your brand. Your voicemail message and even your ring tone convey your brand. How you deliver your elevator speech determines whether people want to do business with you. How you speak and present yourself can be an indicator of education level and socioeconomic status. A study conducted in the 1970s demonstrated that sales reps in upscale department stores had better diction than those who worked in bargain stores.

Public speaking is a skill everyone must master in order to be successful. It's not going away. Avoidance by delegation is not a long time strategy. If you're the CEO, the shareholders want to hear from you. A CEO or CFO who rambles or sounds hesitant doesn't inspire confidence in the analysts. And this can affect a stock's rating. A manager will not motivate a team by giving a lackluster pep talk devoid of emotion.  Entrepreneurs who can't communicate a clear business strategy and convey confidence will forfeit investor funding. Students who don't  know how to present themselves during an interview, may not gain entry to the college of choice.

You don't have to speak the King's English to be successful but you do need to know how to speak and speak well. I believe gifted speakers are born but effective speakers are made.  It doesn't take a major overhaul for most people to be effective. It's the little things that make the most impact. Everyone can be effective and speak with confidence. Public speaking is a skill.  Skills + Practice=Confidence. Make this the year you learn to speak with confidence.

Laughter Is Good for You and Your Audience

We've heard the stories about the healing power of laughter. Scientists are now "graphing the laugh" and it's a serious subject. They've discovered that even animals laugh (no, not just hyenas). In the research lab, rats would continue to return to handlers who tickled them. Dr. Robert Provine, author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation, studied laughter for years and concluded that laughter is mostly social and only a very small percentage of laughter is a result of joke telling. Laughter can actually produce a chemical that acts as an anti depressant in the brain. While there is no scientific evidence that laughter alone produces a direct health benefit, it's enough that laughter feels good and creates good feelings. So don't stress yourself if you can't tell a joke. Laughter is about engagement. You can project a funny cartoon, show a humorous video clip or even play off the humor of the audience. All you need to create laughter is another person. Nervous? Laughing is a good way to burn off nervous stress. Facing a hostile audience? Get them laughing. You can't be angry and laugh at the same time. So stop being so serious and bring a little laughter into your presentations.

Seth Godin: A Knockout Public Speaker

Last month I heard Seth Godin speak at the Small Biz Summit in New York City. He was there to promote his new book, Linchpin. It was the first time I'd heard him speak and he blew me away! I turned to my friend and said, "Now that's a professional speaker!." What was it about Seth's presentation that was so exciting?First, he had a very challenging room set-up. It was two rooms in one divided by a wall with the stage angled between both audiences. The two audiences could only see part of the other room of people. Yet, as a masterful public speaker, Seth pivoted between the two groups with ease never losing the connection.

His energy and enthusiasm never waned. He was so passionate about his subject that we hung on his every word.

But he didn't rely on energy alone.There was substance combined with the sizzle. His message warned us that complacency in our businesses or careers would render us obsolete. This was based on trends that he studied.

The final reason he captured and kept our attention was his PowerPoint. Yes, PowerPoint. Every slide was a picture. We couldn't dismiss him and read the slides. Like a good ad, the visuals flashed before us with each point burned into our brains.

We left his presentation informed, entertained, motivated, and inspired. Each person received a complimentary copy of his book. And the greatest gift was the gift of himself. He stayed behind to sign each book. Public Speaking Lessons Learned: Work the room Be entertaing Engage the audience Energy and passion sell Choose visual images over words Deliver a message with substance Offer a gift Stay behind to talk