Richard Greene, the author of Words That Shook The World: 100 Years of Unforgettable Speeches and Events discusses the 7 secrets of the greatest speakers in history at TEDxOrangeCoast
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Richard Greene – Author, Words That Shook The World: 100 Years of Unforgettable Speeches and Events
It’s 1903 and this extraordinary guy named Teddy Roosevelt is standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. And at that time people wanted to create hotels and spas and turn the Grand Canyon in 1903 into a profit-making Disneyland of the environment. And he stood and said no and he created a tipping point for the environmental movement and for the world. He said, “Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it.” The world would have been a different place today without those words, those tipping point words from President Theodore Roosevelt.
Fast forward. His fifth cousin President Franklin Roosevelt, 30 years later, 1933 in the midst of a huge crisis, the Great Depression of America, said a few words to create a tipping point towards healing for the United States.
“President Franklin Roosevelt: First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
The world would have been a different place without those words at that time from that man.
So in my 30 years of studying public speaking and great speeches, I found that there are 7 secrets that great speakers do that other people don’t. And it’s my belief that every single human being can be a great speaker and that their words can create a tipping point, and that their words and their essence can change the world.
The first secret is about words and understanding that words can be the best, the most amazing in the world but they only actually touch people and communicate 7% of the impact that one human being has on another. Voice tone, the variation in your voice, the enthusiasm, the love, the passion that comes through your voice, 38%, your body language, or you’re looking into someone’s eyes, or you’re looking over their head and not connected. So words, voice tone and body language, those are the three vehicles, the three pathways that great communication happens in.
Secret number 4, what most people do is they throw so much data out trying to prove that they’re smart trying to get all the content out. Words are the 7%. What is important is what is that one thing that you want to leave people with. What is that headline? That’s what makes a great speech and that’s what we’re talking about today.
Secret number 5 is fascinating. If you are afraid, are any of you afraid of public speaking? 41% of the world across cultures is terrified almost to the point and often to the point of actually turning down speaking appointments, whether they’re political leaders or business leaders or charitable leaders, they turn down opportunities to shake the world because they’re scared. There are a lot of reasons why people are scared but in my experience, the number one reason is that we don’t know what public speaking really is. We don’t know the true definition.
The true definition of public speaking is that public speaking is nothing more than having a conversation from your heart about something that you are authentically passionate about. If you think it’s a performance, you’re going to be zero percent you and 100% actor and we don’t get to see and experience and feel who you are.
So I want you to write the word SPEECH down on a piece of paper and I want you to put a circle around it. And I want you to put a line through it. I don’t want you ever, ever to give another speech. That’s not what great speakers do. They don’t give a speech, they don’t give a performance, they don’t make a presentation to the audience. They have what? They have a conversation with — it is a circle, it brings us all together. We are a web connected to every other person. That’s what great speakers do.
When I first met Princess Diana, she looks me in the eyes and says, “You know, I’m so scared of public speaking and I wish that I could do what Charles does”. Now this was when they were actually breaking up, so it’s even more difficult for her to admit that.
And I said, “What does he do?”
She said, “Well, he just stands up there and he tells this funny joke and then he moves on and he’s completely unfazed by it.”
And I told her that Prince Charles doesn’t have what she has. And what she had was what touched and moved the world. People connected with her on a human level and that all you need to do, Your Royal Highness, is just share from your heart, that huge heart that you have and your gut and people will love you even through the speech that scares you, they will feel you, they will know you, they will connect with you, and that it is far more effective than giving a speech, than telling a funny joke but not sharing your heart.
So secret number 6 and you’ll notice this in some of the speakers is that we actually have five parts of our brain. Those five different senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and feeling translate into four different actual communication languages. Speak one of them, you’re not going to be very good. Speak two of them, you’ll be average no matter who you are. Speak all four, no matter who you are, you’re going to rock the world, because you’re going to be giving every person in the audience something that they can connect to.
And visual is the energy of energy — it’s the language of energy. It’s Robin Williams, I have used him as an example and I’m going to continue to use him as an example, how amazing was Robin Williams.
Auditory is the ability to translate details and what you see, what you think, what you feel into a story into words. Ronald Reagan was a great example of that.
Auditory digital, that’s the Albert Einstein, the Bill Gates, the analytical statistically-driven kind of information. You don’t have that, you don’t have a foundational credibility. People are going to go wow! That person is very charming but there’s no there or there.
And kinesthetic is the James Earl Jones, the Morgan Freeman, the Barry White, oh baby. It’s the Poet Ali, it’s that connecting thing that is inside of each and every one of us, that is the most important thing in being a speaker and being a communicator.
And then 7, you can just have this and nothing else and you will still rock the world as so many people do. And that is your authentic passion. What is it that is effing cool that you just have to share it or so effing compelling and I use that middle word, you can use whatever version you want, because it’s a visceral thing, it’s not intellectual.
So let’s go back on our chronological tour of great speeches that have created tipping points in the world.
Now this person, Lou Gehrig didn’t create a tipping point in terms of the global geopolitics of the world but he created a tipping point in terms of understanding the human spirit and his own. Here it was, as you all know he was diagnosed with ALS. He tried to play, he couldn’t play, they then — he had to end his career and Yankee Stadium held a day for him. Lou Gehrig Day was in 1939. He gets out there and he, like so many of you, was petrified of public speaking. And he’s there, he’s there and then just when it’s time for him to go on, he starts backing away, and said, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”
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