Publications & Products
Volume 1, Issue 8

Simple Speeches are Great Speeches

Steve Jobs' 2005 commencement address at Stanford University has been viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube. One Forbes staff writer notes that Jobs' speech is a veritable clinic for all managers who have to speak before a crowded room.

"Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life," Jobs says near the beginning of the video. "That's it. No big deal. Just three stories."

This, writes Forbes staffer Jacquelyn Smith in a recent article on public speaking, is just the kind of hook all public speakers should offer at the beginning of their speeches. The best speeches, she writes, have a "clear beginning, middle and end." For example, Smith advises ditching the thank yous at the beginning of a speech and jumping right in by telling the audience what you will be talking about.

Also like Jobs-who tells his tale of dropping out of college to found Apple, from which he resigned as CEO last week-Smith suggests using anecdotes during your speech.

"People would find speechwriting much easier if they realized that all they needed to do was find a key message and three great stories to support it," says Jane Praeger, a Columbia University professor quoted in the article. "Those kinds of speeches are also easier to deliver because they don't have to be read. If you've lived a story, you can tell it from memory and with genuine feeling. And stories stick in people's minds. When you tell people a story, it arouses their emotions and releases dopamine in their brains, which makes that content sticky. In other words, if you make people feel what you are talking about, they won't forget it."

Most importantly, Smith writes that you should try to enjoy the experience of speaking before others.

"The real zen secret is to love what you're doing in that moment," says Nick Morgan, a public speaking consultant quoted in the article. "If you can relax and be happy about being there, the audience will feel that way, too."

This article is from the Aug. 29, 2011 issue.

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