I have a dream

If you live in America, today is the anniversary of that speech.

On 28th August, 1963, Martin Luther King spoke to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.


I have a dream.

He had not intended to use that line – “I have a dream”. Along with the marchers, he had been singing gospel songs among other things as they marched. A powerful gospel singer and civil rights support, Mahalia Jackson had called to him “Tell them about the dream, Martin.”

And he told them about his dream – impromptu.

In 1999 this speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century, and at least part of it was impromptu!!

He had used the dream before in several speeches, so it wasn’t entirely impromptu, but chosen from his repertoire of “things that work”. Do you have a repertoire of “things that work”?

There had been several versions of the speech prepared beforehand, but none of them was used in its entirety.

The structure of the speech is graceful and powerful. I love Nancy Duarte‘s study of it.

He used the gospel connection well. He used geographical reference well. He used the American iconic moments of history well.

The clever rhetoric and speech structure are obvious.

The two moments that stand out for me are two examples of rhetoric. He resonated with lists and particularly anaphora, I think. The first was when he used “now is the time …” Suddenly what was merely a speech, now had passion. There was genuine feeling in his voice. The second was just before he introduced “I have a dream”. He had listed all the parts of the country his audience would return to, and it was as if he suddenly really connected with his audience. He left the script with his eyes and they continued to scan the audience. Suddenly the whole rhythm and pitch and pace of his speech changed. It returned but his face had changed. He felt somehow free.

What makes you feel free to connect with your audience – that you have the power to move them? We all have it.


3 Steps To Easily Introduce Yourself

I was prowling around Youtube this afternoon (as one does on a Sunday when the grey day does not permit any exploration outdoors!!) and found this beautifully lucid, simple and yet strangely powerful way of putting together an elevator pitch. I love it. Next networking meeting, I’m going to try it out …

Three vital elements of story for speakers

[Quotation about public speaking] Mr. Churchill on after-dinner speeches

“There are two things that are more difficult than making an after-dinner speech: climbing a wall which is leaning toward you and kissing a girl who is leaning away from you.”

— Winston Churchill

churchill statue

Ah Mr. Churchill! He created resonance with the audience, knowing that most find speeches difficult, intrigued them with the mention of two things, and used wonderful “rhetoric” with his phrases that repeated structure and image. What a speaker!

5 Places you can use Story to Grow your Business (besides public speaking)

This is a blog about public speaking … and yet …

Right now, under the banner of a business called Pivotal Public Speaking, I am teaching small business owners about story – story for speakers? … not altogether …

If you are speaking to grow your business, then story is vital. It gives you credibility. It creates a deep engagement with your audience of potential clients. Most powerfully, though, it allows you to take a potential client into your business with you so that they feel, and hear, just what it is like to work with you, just what exactly it is that you do for them.

That is “if you are speaking …”

The stories that you choose and tell, about your business, though, can then be used and re-used elsewhere with exactly the same power.

1. You can use them on the “About” page of your website/blog/web presence. They give that same level of engagement, credibility and awareness, that will have your web visitors clicking through to find out more.

2. You can use them on your sales pages. Let your prospective buyers know that you understand their pain and problems. Let them see your product in action. This is word of mouth marketing – online!

3. You can use them in conversations. You connect at a networking event. What more natural and yet powerful way of deepening that connection is there, than story? People arrive at your product display. Conversation, and story, will give them the human face of your business, your product, your service. And people do tend to buy people first. We know that, though often instictively.

4. You can use your story/stories in your social media marketing. On the surface this means sharing stories about your business – regularly. Facebook loves stories. Distill them down for twitter into tiny conversational pieces. Give them “corporate” style, if you need to, for LinkedIn. Under the surface, though, your brand story drives all that you do in social media. Confine all that you do, say and share to that defined specific story and you establish a strong brand presence.

5. Finally, you can use your stories when you are teaching. Many speaking engagements revolve around teaching about something in your business. Many businesses revolve around teaching something. Here the power of story is perfect for you because it creates engagement, it helps overcome objections to new ideas and it is a vital tool in the integration of brain function so necessary to successful learning.

So in “teaching” story, I am excited to be giving people far more than just a speaking tool, though it is certainly that.

If you are interested in learning more about story, either simply as a speaking tool, or as a tool to grow your business, why don’t you join me?

You will learn

How to use stories for different outcomes.

How to draw an audience into your world or your business using story.

4 of the basic types of business story and where to find the ones in your business/life that will be more effective when you speak.

Story structure – the elements and processes of story and how to apply them and which ones work best in different situations.

How to integrate story into your speaking – how it fits into the structure of your presentation, how to use your voice, stage and stage presence to greatest effect and how to remember it.

Integrated into the program is a thread of how you use story to propel your personal growth, the growth of your business and your vision for the future/blockquote>

This is small group workshop format. In all of my workshops I find people learn much from each other, as they are learning from me, and I intend to maintain that.


[Quick public speaking tip] Switch audience attention to the words you choose

Your speech flows along.

It makes sense.

Your audience is listening, watching, presumably absorbed.

Keep them that way. A speech that flows along like that will get boring before long unless you introduce something that brings your audience’s comfort up short.


Today’s quick tip is one little device that will interrupt the normal communication process and rather than following the flow of ideas, the listener focuses on the words instead. Using this effect, you can have your audience stop, and really listen – to all that you want them to understand, engage with and remember.

This effect is to do with the sounds within words.

One way to create this effect with sounds is to use alliteration. Alliteration is one of the most powerful ways. Here, each word begins with the same sound. So I might have a “particularly powerful proposition” or an idea may be “Revolutionary and radical.” Can you feel the device working, drawing your attention to the words and all that they mean?

Another technique using sound is rhyme. Like all devices, it can evoke emotion which is one of the best ways to resonate and engage with your audience. It can also be used very effectively to create humour… Ogden Nash wrote: “Candy is dandy. But liquor is quicker.” How much meaning there is in those few words … and he draws attention to them using rhyme.

These are also the words that will create what I call a “bright spot” in a speech – a place you can call back to. Use it to identify a point in your speech, or a moment in the presentation as a whole.

So start getting into the habit of incorporating alliteration and rhyme into your speeches – at times when you want to slow things down and make a major point. They will be a powerful ally for you.

[Inspiration] Missing your share of happiness?

“Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.”
William Feather


5 Easy ways to find “catchy content” that will have you remembered, repeated and getting results.


So you have a subject for your speech. One word, maybe. What now?

You know what you want to achieve with this presentation but you’re stuck, trying to find powerful ideas and material that will give your subject life. Yes?

Where will you find the stimulus to develop your ideas?

The answers could just be right under your nose, right there in your daily life.

Here are five ordinary places that will yield up gems to make you and your presentation remembered, repeated and getting results. That’s why I used the word “easy” in the title of this article – the material is all around you.

Things that you do and see and say and think every day will provide that material. It’s just a case of articulating what you want to achieve and then of deliberately looking in these places with that aim in mind.

The thing that makes this not so easy is knowing what to look for.

The first is the information. This involves ideas, stories, facts, case studies, statistics – all of the items you will use to present the main parts of your speech.

The second is themes within those facts and ideas – commonalities, recurring nuggets of information that fit into a theme. These themes may be the main pints of your presentation, or one of them may be the source of your single message.

The third is opinions. And it may be, with this in mind, that you find the things that will give your speech something extra special, that will make it “catchy” – remembered, repeated and getting results.

They may provide humor.

They may help you articulate your passionate view point on the topic.

They may give you something that will stir up opinions or discussion in your audience.

They may also uncover trends in your subject area – places where people are fighting the status quo.

Keep these three areas – information, themes and opinions – in the back of your mind as you open that mind to what is going on around you.

1. On the internet. Obviously! Enjoy your surfing, but let it wander along the lines of the main aim of your speech. You may, in fact, be taken into different directions, to discover even better ideas and themes. Follow links that look interesting or promising. Use search engines, and include databases and blogs in your searches and surfing. Search TED talks and YouTube. These will give you the themes and information you need. They will also give you opinions and ideas about trends, and the links will lead you to other opinions, and sources of support material.

2. In Books. You are reading already. Just look at the books in the light of your speech. Think about books you have read in the past, and how they might relate to your themes and points. Allow yourself to be drawn to the books on your subject. Search online suppliers like Amazon. Scour the local library – reference books, fiction and non-fiction. When you are browsing the bookshops and second-hand book suppliers, again, keep you speech ideas in the front of your mind and books will leap out of the piles to lead you to things you can use.

3. In Magazines. Again, you are reading these already. Look at them from the slant of your speech. And look with new eyes at the racks in the newsagents, the library and the train stations. If you are speaking regularly, you will develop the habit of collecting material on your subject areas – articles from magazines or the internet, quotes, sayings and anecdotes. Keep a paper file of notes and save useful websites in your favourites file, Evernote or a tagging system like del.icio.us.

4. From People. Talk with them about the subject of your speech in your ordinary conversation and you will get all sorts of opinions and information. You cannot interview a website or book for clarification or for a quirky perspective that just might give you the winning angle on a topic.

5. From Your own experiences. Using your own life and its stories is one of the most powerful tools of public speaking. Use humorous or poignant anecdotes. Find experiences that have affected you or your friends to support points in your presentation. Again, you can look back to the past for examples. But looking at your life and the lives of the people you know and see and interact with through the lens of your speech will bring out all sorts of relevant and thought-provoking material.

There are so many places that will yield up brilliant ideas for a speech. It’s just a case of looking – while you are surfing the net, while you are in the library or reading magazines, while you are chatting, and at life in general, and being open to ideas and themes and opinions on the subject. Create a strong picture of where you might go with the speech and let it lead you on. You natural creativity will use all of these sources to put together a great presentation.