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Public Speaking

How to Put Power in Your Speeches

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Verbs produce the power in a speech, so pay attention to your verbs.

Make them active, direct, strong, blunt. In the most important parts of your speech, go for one-syllable verbs. They pack the strongest punch.

Consider this excerpt from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address (January 20, 1961):

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

Note the verbs in the heart of that message:

pay

bear

meet

support

oppose

Say these verbs out loud to hear their power. Read the list a couple of times. Internalize what good verbs sound like.

Try this: The next time you get a speechwriting assignment or need to prepare a PowerPoint or want to rehearse your presentation, find ten weak verbs and replace them with verbs that make people sit up and pay attention.

Let me know how it goes.

 
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