Make your speeches “move the human heart”

Nov 20, 2019

As a communications agency for healthcare and healthcare IT companies, Amendola Communications has built a reputation for strong speaker applications. Once a speaking engagement is secured, however, the real fun begins: the preparation of the speech itself.

When looking for inspiration in oratory, one doesn’t have to look further than Winston Churchill. (Author Andrew Roberts wrote a lengthy biography recently.) You may be saying to yourself:  I’m not making a political speech; I’m not inspiring the British people and the world during the darkest hours of World War II; I’m speaking at HIMSS or another industry event.

Yet the tenets Churchill employed in his speeches have a universal applicability that can help everyone construct more meaningful speeches.

According to Roberts, Churchill drew inspiration from his 1897 unpublished essay entitled, “The Scaffolding of Rhetoric.”  That piece identified five elements of successful speeches:

  1. Use the best possible words Churchill believed in short, simple words that convey powerful meaning.  He held a great appreciation for words.  No doubt, every journalism major remembers her professors’ admonitions to use strong action verbs and nouns and minimize the use of adjectives and adverbs. Unlike some of those professors, however, Churchill did not place a limit on the number of words in a sentence of oratory, provided they contribute to a logical cadence
  2. Listen to the sounds of words and how they influence the human brain. Shakespeare had much influence on Churchill and what he wrote. The latter recommended writing out speech notes and practicing speeches aloud before deliverance.  Martin Luther King also understood the impact of sound.  To wit: “There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”
  3. Build arguments and evidence into a steady crescendo to help one’s audience arrive at the conclusion. Make sure the speech builds upon its points and doesn’t have too many diversions
  4. Use analogies Churchill believed in “translating established truth into simple language,” Roberts said. This is an effective technique for both speeches and the written word.  Put the speech into the context of the larger things in life and give people reason to think about their connections
  5. Arouse emotion Churchill used exaggerated language and hyperbole that did not always sit well with his fellow politicians nor his audiences at large; however, Churchill had a self-mocking quality about him not always realized by his listeners. Like the use of analogies, emotion can “move the human heart” and force people to really listen, and to change their thinking and their lives

Churchill said: “Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than the power of a great king.”  Churchill believed that one needed to cultivate a talent for speaking and to practice it diligently. That’s advice that we can all take to heart.

Philip Anast

Philip has been building, managing and executing PR programs for technology providers since 1995. Using the power of storytelling and influencer relations, he has launched new companies, brands and products, resulting in market penetration, market share growth and corporate acquisition for such clients as HP, Language Analysis Systems, Motorola and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Prior to joining Amendola Communications, Philip worked at Chicago-based PR firm Tech Image, serving in various roles over his 15-year tenure, including managing client programs, providing strategic counsel, pitching new business, growing client relationships, teaching best practices and managing finances. During that time, he served several clients targeting the healthcare/HIT sector, including NEC Display Solutions, IBS (now Iptor Supply Chain Systems) and Cleo. Philip also has worked in the technology practices of Hill and Knowlton and Porter Novelli. He began his PR career at U.S. Robotics and 3Com. Philip holds bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from Northwestern University.