No doubt about it, passionate communication is really the only kind of communication that sticks.
You can stuff your draft full of rhetoric and metaphor and pull out all the tricks of the writing trade. You can write a speech so good it would make Lincoln throw down his stovepipe hat and tear up the envelope on which he wrote the Gettysburg Address. But if you don’t deliver your speech with conviction—if it sounds like you’re reading somebody else’s words—that beautiful literary confection will fall flat as a soufflé in a refrigerator.
Nick Morgan, writing on Forbes.com, makes a strong case for passionate communication:
“Passion is both authentic and charismatic. We don’t fully trust people until we’ve seen them get emotional — angry, sad, ecstatic — because these moments allow us to take the measure of their values.”
Passion builds a bridge that allows the audience to connect with you.
Now, I’m not talking about Pentecostal preacher-passionate. Unless you happen to be a Pentecostal preacher you’re going to look and sound pretty ridiculous if you try to mimic that. In fact, don’t aim to “mimic” anyone. True passion can only come from one place: inside you.
More from Nick Morgan:
“I worked with a speaker who was telling a personal story to a large audience and revealing information that had not been public before. There was a lot of tension on his staff before the big night. We talked with the speaker about many ways that he could indicate his passion to that audience, but in the end we settled on simplicity. He stood very still and told his story very quietly. The passion came through.”
Passionate communication and the speechwriter
Nick Morgan’s bio on Forbes.com identifies him as a “communication theorist and coach.” If you’ve never encountered that job description before—”communication theorist”—you’re not alone; neither have I. A sentence or two later we learn that Morgan helps “people find clarity in their thinking and ideas – and then deliver[…] them with panache.”
I’m a big fan of panache. And of clarity. Panache and clarity may grab an audience, but there’s no guarantee they’ll hold their attention. For that, my friends, you need a story. And, ideally, a speechwriter.
Because a speech needs to be more than passionate. It needs to take the listeners on a journey. It needs to show them the road forward, leave them with a clear call to action. With a writer shaping the passion and a coach encouraging the panache, you’ve got two of the three ingredients you need for a memorable speech. The third, and most important ingredient—passion—can only come from the speaker.
Morgan advises his clients to
“…prepare, just before the communication, not only what you’re going to say but how you feel about it: strongly, fully, and with all your physical being. That, after all, is where passion originates.”
I like the advice, but it skips over one key element. I’d reword it slightly:
Having prepared what you’re going to say, take a moment before delivering the communication to think about how you feel about your message. Feel the emotions strongly, fully, and with all your physical being. That, after all, is where passion originates.
Preparation is not the enemy
Too many speakers—and, apparently, speaking coaches—seem to feel that preparation signals a lack of authenticity. You won’t be surprised to learn that I disagree.
In my book, preparation signals a respect for your audience. And for the importance of your message. Yes, preparing with a speechwriter takes time. I recommend a minimum of half an hour on the phone or in person to give the writer the personal details that fuel your passion for the subject. (More, if it’s a long or significant speech.) And yes, that does add to the speaker’s already busy schedule. It’s an extra layer of complexity, for sure.
But do you want to speak with “panache” or do you actually want to say something and be remembered? No matter how passionate you are about a subject, you have to turn your passion into a call to action. Doing something like that might not be in your wheelhouse. But it is in a speechwriter’s.