Making an Impact on Your Audience

It’s not an uncommon question: how do you know when your speech is ready for primetime? For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll define “ready” as the ability to captivate and engage an audience. Please note that this still remains an entirely subjective question, of course. After all, what speaks to one audience may not appeal at all to another. In any case, I believe there are two main indicators of which you need to be aware as you’re developing your speech.

When Moriba Jah, an astrodynamicist and TED Fellow, delivered his April 2019 talk, TED chose to highlight one phrase. Both excerpted and in context, it spoke to me, not just as a speechwriter, but as a viewer.

“Most of what we send into outer space never comes back.”

The 50th anniversary of the first moon landing is later this month, and since at least a decade before that, all anyone ever has ever mentioned is sending equipment and people into space. As a layperson in the field of astrodynamics, I never think about what happens to the stuff that’s up there once the astronauts have returned home safely. It’s a reasonably safe bet that most people reading this are like me.

So, why does this work? There are two reasons. The first is that it subverts audience expectations. Audiences remember surprises. Now, it’s true that how much of a surprise you can deliver depends entirely on your audience. Any time you can challenge conventional thinking, however slightly, you stand a much better chance of making an impact.

The second reason is why I love my work. That quote works because it’s a great turn of phrase. It has symmetry. It flows. Speechwriting is an art form, not unlike song composition or painting. The audience appreciates your speech when it’s crafted with care. Even if they don’t exactly notice the structure or the syntax, you will be more confident when you’re on stage. That cannot be ignored.

Share your expertise authentically and artfully.