Focus Public Speaking

Speak Like a Fish: Casual, in the moment, and passionate about the idea

Speak like a fish and create bubbles of inspiration!For our third speech review,  we meet with Simon Sinek and his  speech How great leaders inspire action, still a member of the top 20 listing. At the time of writing this post, Simon Sinek’s speech counts more than 27,352,982 viewers; the speech was given at a TEDx event, an independently organized event under a TEDx license.

First, we have a great title “How great leaders inspire action”.

What makes it great? Being a leader is in fashion and everybody in that specific audience (live or online going to wants one way or another to be a bit of a leader. Then the title starts with HOW, which makes it either a question or a step-by-step guidelines – our mind won’t pick-up on the lack of a question mark- and we can be curious.

Then, the style of the speaker comes across very simple.

He dresses casual. He holds a microphone all along, which has the advantage of keeping one of his hands very quiet and stable (and yet, it may have the disadvantage of preventing full spontaneity of movement -here it helps though). He barely moves through the speech, remaining in the vicinity of the flipchart. He is clearly passionate about his subject -this is evident in the way he uses the flipchart, or when he accelerates the rhythm of his voice, or again when he uses his right hand/arm to emphasize on key points. The rhythm of his voice varies, becoming quite fast at times, still he remains easy to listen to through the length of the speech. He keeps his focus on the subject, no jokes, no direct interaction with the audience; he is full speed on his idea. Last, and this is unusual on a TED talk, he uses a flipchart as a visual, which allows the visual to be built as the speaker speaks, and the building of that visual becomes a shared moment with the audience. This is what I call an in-the-moment effect.

Next, the content, and let’s start by identifying how that content is organised.

Do we have a clear structure? Yes, we do and it’s a very simple one: introduction, body, and conclusion. When we looked at content versus timing, we can pick-up a few interesting elements (and in italic comments on their impact):

1 – Introduction: about 2 min, organised around the question “why” which is repeated; the speaker is already making his point (and also applying his own idea to his speech).

This is actually fun, the speaker keeps us curious since he gives us questions with no answer. He also uses a very generic question – “why”- which means that everybody in the audience can find in their life something applying to that question, and therefore engaging with the subject.

2 – @2 minutes 19: we have the idea, the notion/concept of “golden circles”

3 – @3 minutes 10: we move to pragmatic information, that is how to use that concept “Inspired leaders think inside out”, first Why, then How, next What.

Here we have the information that the title is both the question and the statement, however as we listen, our mind wont pick up on that; our curiosity is still engaged looking for answers. We are 3 minutes into the speech and every key point made. The remaining 15 minutes will illustrate the idea, supporting it with research data from sales &marketing, neurosciences, psychology and biology, bringing credibility to the idea.

4 – Conclusion: the speaker brings it all together with the sentence: “they are leaders, and they are leaders who inspired, the one we follow not for themselves but for ourselves, and why? Because indeed we believe in their ‘Why that’.”

The speaker leads us there using factual information, and then include us in the conclusion ourselves we believe.

To support this simple structure, all along his speech the speaker uses repetition. His key sentence -“people don’t buy what you do but buy why you do it”- is repeated at least three times; and at each repetition, he uses different voice tempo, different emphasizes on wording, different voice tone, up to the point that the sentence becomes like a leitmotiv. Similar effect he uses for the sentence “Why we do it”. Now that sentence is particularly clever: it is apply to the idea, at the same times, it is vague enough to apply to anything; anybody in the audience at one time or another have asked themselves “Why do we do it?” “Why do I do it?” but that’s not all, it appears like a question, while it facts it’s an affirmative statement -“Why we do it”- where “it” automatically maps to “listening to the speech”. We call this an embedded command.

So much is about connecting with the audience. So much is about giving the audience elements to identify with and use to create their own version of the speech in their head.

And Simon Sinek does that very often. For instance, when he repeats several times, “I believe” “I believe” to illustrate a point. Anyone in the audience believe in at least one thing, therefore they can assume that sentence to be true; then repeated like this, the sentence becomes a self-affirmation in the head of the listener, hence they are more likely to “believe” what the speaker just said.

Fascinating, isn’t it? With that third speech review, we have another speaker, another style, and still another positive result.

If you have done that exercise on your side, please use the comments section to share your thoughts. Of course you have come up with different details, different impressions, picked-up on other elements. That’s okay. Each listener brings their own sensibility in such analysis exercise.

Still common elements will be there:  the speaker does connect with the audience and creates curiosity; the speaker sparks an emotional reaction at the audience; the speaker uses factual information.

Time to step out of the box… how on earth is public speaking about self-leadership, interesting question, right? See you tomorrow for a first set of answers.

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