Speeches: 5 elements that matter more than the writing

You don’t have to write like Cicero, Lincoln, or Churchill to draft a great speech. Just remember the yellow bathtub ducky—and use emotion.

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Some time ago, industrial designers at a conference in Washington, D.C., highlighted their most amazing gadgets for homes and work.

Funny thing, though. None of the Jetsons-type futuristic gizmos made The Washington Post the next day, says veteran speechwriter Fletcher Dean.

Instead the Post wrote about one old, low-tech design. “It was this: a simple yellow rubber duck,” Dean says, holding aloft the toddler’s toy.

A speaker mentioned carcinogens used in the manufacture of the duck—which often end up in the mouths of toddlers and teething babies. He scored big-time coverage not through Ciceronian prose, but by connecting emotionally with his listeners: Why in the world would we design, with intent, a product like this for our children to use?

“You do not have to be a great writer to create a great speech,” says Dean, who is director of leadership communication at Dow Chemical Co. and author of “10 Steps to Writing a Vital Speech.

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