What makes a good speech? Some universal truths

When I say I blog daily, I do mean every day–Sunday included. The Almighty may have rested on the seventh day but Seth Godin doesn’t. And I figure if it’s good enough for Seth, it’s good enough for me.

But regular readers may have noticed that my weekend blogs usually involve lighter fare—pop culture, art, or humor.

What makes a good speech? That's one of the topics Elaine covers on Joan Garry's podcast.I’m making an exception today, because I just can’t wait to introduce you to Joan Garry’s podcast, Nonprofits are Messy. Joan has gained a reputation as the “Dear Abby” of the nonprofit world—darn! I forgot to tell her that “Dear Abby” and her twin sister “Ann Landers” were good friends with Warren Buffett. (I think she would enjoy that bit of trivia.) Anyway, Joan’s show has quickly become iTunes’ #1 rated podcast in the nonprofit space.

So when Joan invited me to be a guest on her show, to talk to her tribe of nonprofit leaders about how to give a good speech, I said yes in a heartbeat. She released my episode today and I think even people in the—gasp—for-profit world can learn something from our conversation.

So how do you give a good speech?

Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that variations of the word “storytelling” cropped up more than once in the course of the conversation. Or that I stressed the value of rehearsal.

See? In many ways, a speech is a speech is a speech, no matter what the content.

Nonprofit speakers may have an edge on emotion, but they’re in the business of saving lives and building communities. Craft a story out of that kind of work and it’s easy to tug at your listeners’ heartstrings. And when the money you raise tonight determines whether you’ll meet your payroll tomorrow, it’s easy to get passionate about your story, and to move your listeners to action.

But every speaker should be passionate about the story they tell. And every speech should move listeners to action. Your for-profit business may not be about finding a cure for AIDS or eradicating homelessness, but you’ve got an inspiring story to tell somewhere, or people wouldn’t have chosen to work for you. And to stay.

Why are you passionate about your work? Whatever kind of organization you run, that’s a story your listeners need to hear. And it’s definitely the basis of a good speech. (Listen to the podcast for more!)

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