Saying the right thing at the right time is a huge skill.
The team need motivating, the meeting needs cooling, a big point needs to be made, a situation needs rescuing, a group needs convincing, the proposal needs selling ..whatever the situation its important to say the right thing and deliver it in a manner that connects with your audience and has the impact you desire.
Like every other skill it is something that we learn over time and sometimes for important things we might even need a little assistance!
We will never surrender
Imagine Winston Churchill making his speech in the House of Commons on the 4th June, 1940 with a country facing war and in serious trouble and the whole population fearful:
“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.
We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”
Winston Churchill wrote most of his own speeches but drafts went through many hands. Some of the ideas for this speech apparently came from an American newspaper editor, William Simms.
I have a dream
Imagine Dr. Martin Luther King standing in front of 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28th 1963 calling an end to racism in the United States:
“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”
Clarence Jones wrote some of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches with input from his advisor Wyatt Walker and of course the finishing touches applied by Dr. King. On this occasion Walker did not want there to be any reference to “I have a dream” as he felt it had been overused already by Dr.King in previous speeches.
Apparently Dr King when he felt his prepared speech wasn’t delivering the right impact he decided to abandon his written text and use his “I have a dream” speech. It worked!
Imagine a 43 year old John F Kennedy addressing the crowd in his inaugural, United States Presidential speech in 1961 trying to instil some national pride in it’s citizens:
“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”
Theodore Chaikin “Ted” Sorensen was President John F.Kennedy’s legendary speechwriter as well as his advisor and special counsel. President Kennedy once called him his “intellectual blood bank“.
Yes we can
Imagine another United States President, Barack Obama addressing a crowd in Dublin on May 23rd, 2011 when our country was battered and bruised after a number of torturous recession years with little sign of progress:
“Never has a nation so small inspired so much in another. Irish signatures are on our founding documents, Irish blood was spilled on our battlefields, Irish sweat built our great cities. Our spirit is eternally refreshed by Irish stories and Irish song, our public life by the humour and heart and dedication of servants with names like Kennedy and Reagan, O’Neill and Moynihan”
“This little country, that inspires the biggest things, your best days are still ahead. Our greatest triumphs, in America and Ireland alike, are still to come. And Ireland, if anyone ever says otherwise, if anybody ever tells you that your problems are too big, or your challenges are too great, that we can’t do something, that we shouldn’t even try, think about all we’ve done together. Think about whatever hardships the winter may bring, spring-time’s always just around the corner.
And if they keep on arguing with you, just respond with a simple creed: Is feidir linn. Yes we can. Yes we can. Is feidir linn.”
I watched that speech in our office with the team and I felt it gave everyone in the country an important lift (as well as the Queen’s visit a few weeks previous).
Jonathan E. “Jon” Favreau was the Director of Speechwriting for President Barack Obama who is quite adept at writing his own speeches. In his second term in office he changed to Cody Keenan, who Obama refers to as “Hemingway”, writing in a much more grounded style than the lofty grandiose style of Favreau.
“Yes we can” was the stand out element or ‘tag line’ of Obama’s famous speeches and this nearly never made it as Barack Obama thought it was too “corny” and he had to be persuaded by his wife Michelle to use it!
When it came to ‘saying the right thing‘ even all of these brilliant individuals needed help from someone..
Maybe you do too?
Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR, Marketing and Graphic Design, with offices in Dublin and Cork