PR Wars Podcast: Writing powerful speeches

Great speeches can change the world. In today’s PR Wars podcast, we talk about Comms 101 techniques that will make your speech writing more memorable, effective, and impactful.

The PR Wars “Comms 101″ segment recognizes core communication principles to help you become a better communicator.

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Announcer: It’s time. Welcome to PR wars coming at you live from Atlanta, Georgia. Now, here is your host, Chris Shigas.

Chris Shigas: Hey everyone, welcome to PR Wars. I’m Chris Shigas. Today on Comms 101. We’re talking about great speech writing.

(Clip from Braveheart)

“They may take our lives, but they will never take… our freedom!”

Chris Shigas: Great speeches. Who doesn’t love a great speech? They can change the world. Today, we’re going to talk about some Comms 101 techniques that will make your speech writing more impactful.

Anaphora, Epistrophe, and Anadiplosis.  What is he speaking Greek? Yeah, I’m speaking Greek. These are rhetorical devices to help you in your speech writing. Do not settle for your writing to wallow in the muck of mediocrity.

First we’ll examine Anaphora.  Anaphora consists of repeating words at the beginning of a series of sentences or at the beginning of a series of clauses. It creates an emphasis for your communication. It makes your speech more memorable. Think of it as branding your speech.

In the movie Wall Street, Michael Douglas plays the role of Gordon Gekko. He’s a wealthy tycoon and delivers his famous “greed is good” speech.  In this clip, each sentence begins with the word… greed. This is an example of anaphora.

(Clip from Wall Street)

“The point is ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.  Greed, in all of its forms. greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”

Chris Shigas: I want to use another example. This is the most famous display of Anaphora. It was the greatest speech ever given. In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I Have a Dream speech in Washington DC. He began a series of paragraphs with the words, “I have a dream,” and it burned into the consciousness of not only America, but of the world. This is the most famous example of an Anaphora.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Chris Shigas: Well, everyone remembers this particular use of Anaphora. But in his speech, it was not the only time that Dr. King use this rhetorical technique. In the same speech, he also began a series of paragraphs with the phrase, “Let Freedom Ring.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

Dr. King actually used Anaphora a third time in the speech by repeating the phrase “with this faith.” He used this phrase “with this faith,” beginning three phrases, and to hammer it home, he finished the “with this faith” Anaphora with another technique. This technique is the opposite of Anaphora. It’s called Epistrophe. Epistrophe is the repetition of the same word, not at the beginning… but at the end of a successive series of clauses or sentences. Listen to how Dr. King uses the word “together” at the end of each phrase.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together.”

Chris Shigas: Now, Dr. King wasn’t the first orator and he wasn’t even the first American to use Epistrophe. In fact, it was used for emphasis in one of the country’s most revered eulogies. President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address to help the nation heal from the horrible Civil War battle. Listen to the repetitive use of the word “people.”

Abraham Lincoln: “And that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this Earth.”

Chris Shigas:  A more modern use of Epistrophe… now, regardless of your politics, President Barack Obama delivers great speeches. Can we all agree on that?  In 2008, his campaign stump speech, uses the phrase “Yes we can.” This form of Epistrophe can become a chant. It helps move the crowd. It encourages participation. Listen to Obama’s use of Epistrophe with “Yes, we can.”

Barack Obama: “It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed the trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights. Yes, we can. It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness. Yes, we can. It was the call of workers who organized… women who reached for the ballot… a President who chose the Moon as our new frontier… and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land. Yes, we can.”

Chris Shigas: So, we learned about Anaphora and Epistrophe. The last rhetorical technique that we’ll learn today is called Anadiplosis. Anadiplosis is the repetition of a word used at the end of a sentence, and then you use it again. At the beginning of the next sentence, it creates a logical sequence or series.

In this example from Star Wars. Yoda explains why fear is the path to the dark side, and he uses an Asus to make this progression by taking the last word of a phrase and repeating it as the first word of the next sentence

Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

Chris Shigas: A final example of Anadiplosis, I’m going to use another example from Obama. I know I used an example from him already, but he’s a great speaker. So, give me a break. Listen to the progressions of Anadiplosis taken from his “One Voice” speech.

Barack Obama: “One voice can change the room. And if the voice can change the room, it can change the city. And if it can change the city, it can change the State. If it can change the State, it can change the nation. If it can change the nation, it can change the world.”

Chris Shigas: So, there you have it. Anaphora, Epistrophe, and Anadiplosis. These are three rhetorical devices to make your speech writing more memorable. To make your speech writing more effective. To make your speech writing more impactful. Now go get em’!

Bluto from Animal House: “Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? (Germans? Forget it, he’s on a roll now). Cuz when the going gets tough… … … the tough get’s going! Who’s with me? Yahhhhhhhh!”

PR Wars was selected as a Top PR Podcast You Must Follow in 2020 by Feedspot.

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