‘Inspirational speech’ is like ‘viral video’—a great conversational soundbite, but devilishly hard to do.
That said, if you’re going to the massive effort of crafting a speech for a conference or event, it’s worth shooting for inspirational. You may not get to John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, but trying to rise above the powerpoint stiffs is a noble goal.
There is no simple answer to crafting an inspirational speech, but finding your moonshot idea is the first step. Tweet This Quote
Inspirational stands out. If you’re an entrepreneur raising investment, you need to stand out from your competitors. If you’re addressing a conference, your company’s brand (personified by you) needs to stand out from all the others on the podium.
Anyone offering you a simple answer to crafting an inspirational speech should be treated with the same credulity as a Nigerian prince offering you his fortune online. But there are some fundamentals that can get you on the right track. Finding your moonshot idea is the first of those fundamentals.
If you were JFK, what would you say?
Most of the clients we write speeches for are pretty decent speakers already. They have good presentations, and they can command a room.
However, their presentations tend to explain how something is going to be done. The ten step plan. Three easy tips. Five things you should never forget.
A great speech inspires your listeners to believe in an idea—not how to execute it. Tweet This Quote
JFK didn’t do three easy tips. He left that for his strategists to work out behind closed doors. Instead, JFK focused on winning the hearts and minds of his listeners. He inspired them to believe in an idea—he didn’t telling them how to execute that idea.
Think of your speech. Is there a big, lofty idea in there that will give your audience goosebumps?
Getting to goosebumps
Here’s my preferred methodology for trying to pull someone’s visionary idea out of their less-than-visionary script.
- Why does the world need this? If you can tell me why society/civilization/the world needs this idea, it might have the trappings of a moonshot. Remember, ‘need’ isn’t the same as ‘could use’. I need oxygen. I could use a steam iron for my suits.
- What will the world look like once they have this? If the world sees your idea come to fruition, will it be a better place? Really better? Or just better in a superficial marketing sense? Your audience can sniff out non-innovation dressed up in a slick tagline and slideshow. If your gut is telling you that your idea isn’t big enough to change the world in a fundamental way, dig deeper. Or find another idea.
- Can my dream be part of your dream? Your big idea might be wonderful, but if there’s no role for me in it, then it’s simply an interesting side show. For example, I can’t get behind your dream to make lots of money—that’s all about you. I can, however, get behind your dream of redistributing all your money to start micro-businesses that make my inner city a more vibrant place.
In your speech, explain why the world needs your idea and how it will be a better place. Tweet This Quote
What about the nitty gritty?
If you have a complex topic to address, you can still do an inspirational speech. The trick is creating a leave behind.
A leave behind takes the form of a PDF on a landing page you create specifically for your speech. It is a long form manuscript of your presentation that anyone who wants the nitty gritty of your talk can download for a recap.
Saying at the beginning of your talk that you have a leave behind gives you wings. Everyone knows you aren’t going to deal with ‘the how’ in your talk. Your audience will relax, put down their pens and phones, and just enjoy. It’s a win-win.
If your gut is telling you your idea isn’t big enough to change the world, dig deeper—or find another idea. Tweet This Quote
Will it work?
If it were easy to do a moonshot speech, we would all do them. We would also all write Oscar-winning screenplays.
Fact of the matter, you may not get to the moon with your speech. But as the quote goes, if you aim for the moon and miss, chances are you’ll still hit a star.
A version of this post originally appeared on LinkedIn.