(Part 1)

(Name the speaker)

  1. This speaker delivered a funeral oration in Athens as part of the public funeral for those who died at the conclusion of the first year of the Peloponnesian War. “…This is the solid prize with which, as with a garland, Athens crowns her sons living and dead, after a struggle like theirs.
  2. When this leader called for determined but non-violent resistance to British rule, the British viewed the power of his words with such alarm that less than twenty-four hours after his speech, the British put almost the entire Congress leadership in confinement. “In the democracy which I have envisaged, a democracy established by non-violence, there will be equal freedom for all. Everybody will be his own master.”
  3. This person was a slave until about the age of thirty, never had the benefit of a formal education, and couldn’t read or write. However, she had the capacity to remember what others read to her and had a natural talent for speech. In fact, she may have been the most electrifying woman speaker in history. During the 1850s she drew large crowds with her powerful lectures on slavery and women’s suffrage. “Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman?”
  4. A charismatic US president with a talent for rhetoric, he gave one of the most memorable presidential inaugural addresses in history. He asked all Americans to unite against common enemies of tyranny, poverty, disease, and war. “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America can do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
  5. This man spent nearly thirty years in prison for leading a movement against apartheid in his country. In 1990 he was released from prison. In 1991 he became president of the African National Congress. In 1994 he was inaugurated as the first Black president of his country. Here are some words from his speech given at the opening of his trial in 1964: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”
  6. This speech was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The speech was seen as a turning point in the struggle for equality for Blacks in the USA. The famous part of the speech (“I Have a Dream”) was not in the script. The speaker delivered it from his heart and his memory for he had given those parts of the speech on other occasions. His speech was ranked the top American speech by a poll of scholars of public address. “I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed…”

Great Historic Speeches Part II will appear in the August newsletter!



Unleashing Your Communication & Performance Potential





Here’s a sure-fire way to turn your listeners off, sabotage your credibility, bore your listeners, and make them wish you’d end your speech: Litter your speech with “uh,” “um,” “you know,” “like,” “so,” “right,” “actually,” and “double-clutches” – words you repeat successively several times such as “is-is” or “so-so” or “I-I.”. It’s common to hear listeners who’ve been subjected to such a speaker say, “I stopped trying to follow the content of the speech and just counted how many times I heard “uh” and “um.” These words are often referred to as non-words, or filler words, or crutch words. I will call them non-words for ease of description. They do not add substance to the message, but distract the listener by breaking the flow of information or inspiration of the message and they disrupt the pattern of sounds (rhythm and cadence) of the speech. The most famous such occurrence in recent times was when Caroline Kennedy ran for the New York Senate seat that was being vacated by Hillary Clinton. In a series of interviews, she sabotaged herself by the use of non-words, particularly “You know.” The title of a You Tube video read, “Caroline “You Know” Kennedy Goofs Up in Interview. Says “You Know” 138 Times.” The New York Times transcript showed that she said ‘You Know” 12 times in less than a minute. This is an extreme case. There is research for the US population that states that the range of use of non-words is from a high of 88 to a low of 1.2 per thousand words spoken. Where do you think you fall in this range? If you are like most people, you probably underestimate your use of non-words. Let’s consider five steps that will move your speech patterns toward the low end of the non-word usage scale:

STEP 1: Become aware of your use of non-words

When you give a speech get yourself video taped or audio taped. Review the tape and count the type of non-words you use and the frequency. In order to examine your everyday conversation, audiotape yourself when you are talking on the phone. When I did this, I was in for a surprise. Although I seldom use non-words when giving a speech, I found that non-words frequently crept into my telephone conversations. You can also ask a friend or colleague to track your use of non-words the next time you give a speech or report. The first step to eliminating non-words is to become aware of them.

STEP 2: Notice when you are most likely to utter non-words

Usually this happens when you are not quite sure what the next word should be. Sometimes, people use “um” (as against the shorter “uh”) to let listeners know that they have something else to say and should not be interrupted while they are trying to figure out what to say next. Frequently people say “uh” as an appendage to “and” by saying “and-uh.” When you notice your non-word speech patterns, you can then plan to break them.

STEP 3: Make a decision to banish non-words from your speech

Transform a wish to a want, a desire to a decision. Decide to fill those voids in speech with a PAUSE. A pause not only gives you time to choose the correct words, it also allows the listeners to comprehend what you are saying without feeling rushed. Apply multi-sensory imagery to create mental movies of yourself speaking fluently with no non-words.

STEP 4: Practice speaking and using the pause

View videotapes or listen to audiotapes of you giving a speech or just talking. Analyze your success at using the pause and reducing your use of non-words. Notice how the pause adds clarity to your message. Sometimes it even adds “gravitas!”

STEP 5: Aim for complete victory at sending your former non-words packing

Catch any non-words you utter in the course of your daily conversations, telephone chats, team meetings, and presentations. Make your communication, regardless of whether it is formal or informal, always a “non-word free zone!” The rewards you reap will be a higher level of speaking effectiveness, self-confidence, greater credibility, and a sense of “presence” with your audiences.


I have kept the best advice to the last. You can do all of the above in a supportive, positive, learning environment when you become active in a Toastmasters Club. If you are not already a Toastmaster, visit www.Toastmasters.org, find a club near you, and visit it to see and hear for yourself how the program can help. It will not only help you to eliminate non-words, but will also enable you to become a more confident and competent speaker and leader.


Coming up in the August e-Newsletter: The Art of the Pause.


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