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How to make a great leadership speech

In leadership, the Obama experience seems to remind us, the speech is the thing. There is something about a great leadership speech – from Kennedy in Berlin way back to Lincoln and the Gettysburg address – that can define a moment, inspire a generation.

On a more mundane level, the leadership speech is a powerful mechanism, if you are any good at it, for reaching all of the people you need to reach – from employees to stockholders – and connecting with them, influencing them. The problem is most leaders are not very good at it. Most leaders are excruciatingly bad at it; yes, even you, who have been through all that expensive presentation training.

Most leaders are bad at it because they use speeches to pronounce, not to speak intimately about themselves and the people they are talking to. A stage or a camera are seen as a cue to speak ‘publicly’ rather than intimately. But, it’s the intimate, the personal, the real, that connects with people. The best leadership speeches tell a personal story about yourself that resonates with the people in the audience – It’s not about ego, about ‘me’ stories; it’s about stories that touch people and illuminate something about shared values and shared purpose.

OK, that means nothing without an example, so the Leaders in London Chairman and Facilitator Rene Carayol has a stunning one over on his website, from Steve Jobs of Apple. You need to earmark at least five minutes to read it. It seems to be a ‘me’ speech, but it actually speaks perfectly to his audience; about their situation as they look ahead to their future and look out to the rest of the world and find their place in it.

Quick extract to give you a flavour/flavor:

“Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

My second story is about love and loss.

My third story is about death.”

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