Your speech may consist of tens of lines, hundreds of words, and thousands of letters. But the basis of your speech should be only one line.
World Champion Speaker Randy Harvey calls it the Legacy Line. World Champion Speaker and Trainer Craig Valentine calls it the Foundational Phrase. Doug Stevenson calls it The Phrase that Pays. Whatever you call it is irrelevant. Here is what it is. It is the line that you want to linger in your audience's mind, but it is also the line that YOU should start with to keep you focused on what to include in your speech.
So what is this line? The easiest way to describe What it should be, is to explain How to come up with one. There are 2 questions you should ask of yourself to come up with your Lasting Line:
1) What is your main message?
2) What do you want your audience to think about or do with your message?
Once you have these questions answered, you are ready to come up with your line. To make it linger however, you should a) deliver it during your speech, likely near the end (as opposed to giving it away too early, such as in your title), and b) use one of the CREAM elements: Contrast, Rhyme, Echo, Alliteration or Metaphor (see my CREAM article here) when comprising your line.
Why create the Lasting Line? It is what we remember long after you have finished speaking. You may not remember hearing JFK speak, but you likely remember, “It's not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” You may not remember much that was said by Muhammed Ali, but you probably remember that he “Floats like a butterfly, and stings like a bee.” You may not remember all of the words, but you probably think of Martin Luther King when you hear the words, “I have a Dream”. You may not remember all of the words of your favourite song, but you can't get the chorus out of your head, can you? (There are some choruses I wish I could get out of my head but they are too catchy!) Think of your Lasting Line as Your Chorus. A short, repeatable phrase that is a call to action or piece of wisdom that you want your audience to remember. One of my favourites from Craig Valentine (www.craigvalentine.com) is “What got you here, won't get you there” - he was talking about getting coaching to become a better speaker. One of my favourites from Randy Harvey is “Sometimes you're the catcher, sometimes you're the caught” - he was referring to a line from his father, outlining that sometimes others lean on you for strength and support, and sometimes you have to do the leaning. These lines stick in your brain, they hammer home your message, and they last and linger long after the speaker has left the stage.
So think of your next speech, and sum up your theme with your own Lasting Line. If you do, then the words you say, will last well past today. ;)
What's Your Line?
Kwesi Millington helps speakers to connect with their audiences and master their messages using the power of storytelling in their speeches & presentations. He is a Certified Public Speaking Coach & Youth Mentor.