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  • Holly Blum, The Word Whisperer

Five Reasons Speeches Are A Lot Like Songs

I love music. On Mondays and Tuesdays you will find me watching The Voice. It’s amazing to watch such talented artists sing their hearts out each week. It often surprises me how much I am moved by their performances. Unfortunately I can’t sing…I was not blessed in that way. But sometimes when I’m writing I envision what the speech would sound like if it were set to music. That’s when I can really tell if it will hit the right notes (pun intended).

Here’s my take on why speeches are a lot like songs.

1. They're rhythmic.

Just like songs, speeches have a musicality to them. The best speeches follow the rhythm and cadence of your speaking voice. Everyone has a natural tempo; the trick is to know how to match your words with this rhythm. That’s why I spend so much time interviewing my clients; I need to hear how they talk to be able to write in their voice. I also find it helpful to mark up speeches to note where to speed up or slow down, just like the notations in actual music. This helps keep you on pace and sounding polished.

2. They tell a story.

The best songwriters know how to spin a really compelling story. My husband's all-time favorite musician is Bruce Springsteen. Yes, because they were both born in Freehold, New Jersey, but mostly because Bruce is a natural born storyteller. Speeches are no different. The most memorable speeches (along the lines of “I Have A Dream” and The Gettysburg Address) weave a story that stays with you for a long time.

3. There's a chorus (of sorts).

Chances are that if you’re asked to sing a song from start to finish, you’re more likely to remember the chorus over any other part of the song. That’s because the chorus repeats itself. The same holds true when delivering a speech. Most speechwriters purposely use repetition to highlight a main point. In a recent speech I wrote for a mother celebrating her twins’ birthday, I used the term “double blessing” throughout the speech. This helped her express her love and gratitude for her children in a more memorable way.

4. They need to connect with the listener.

The best songs have lyrics that really make an impact on the listener. The same is true with speeches. If you’re not sharing information that resonates with the whole audience, chances are they will tune you out VERY quickly. That’s why I leave inside jokes and embarrassing stories on the permanent chopping block.

5. They leave us feeling a specific emotion.

Whenever I listen to my favorite music (still the Counting Crows) I want to feel what the artist is feeling in the song. Whether it’s joy, pain or somewhere in between, the experience of shared emotion makes the song that much more powerful. Speeches are no different. In fact, without expressing emotion, speeches can fall flat or sound unauthentic. Without leaving the audience feeling something, you might as well skip the speech altogether.

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