Words have the power to move mountains and change lives. A truly great speech, though, can inspire people to take action, even when the situation is dire.
Some of history’s defining moments came about not because of the sweep of a weapon but due to the words of impassioned speakers. They wielded words with enough deftness and precision to sway the masses.
One key aspect of all great speakers is their ability to connect with their audience. They can tap into another person’s emotions and help them recognize their own power within.
Words have the power to change minds and hearts,but a deft speaker can do more than changing someone’s mindset. A skilled speaker can inspire the audience to action and move mountains if needed.
Patrick Henry was a great example of a masterful orator. As one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he inspired a young nation to take up arms and fight for their beliefs.
Unlock his speaking secrets if you want to strike at the very heart of your audience with the same passion and precision as he did.
Who Was Patrick Henry?
Most people probably know Patrick Henry from his memorable words about liberty and death. But beyond his famous speech, he was also a man that cared about his fellow man.
Patrick Henry wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he did receive some advantages early in life. His father was a well-educated Scotsman who had a variety of roles in the colony, such as a colonel, surveyor, and justice of the county court.
Henry received some basic education at the local school before reaching the age of 10. Not only that, his classics-trained father reinforced his education by tutoring his young son.
His advantages didn’t exactly give him a life of leisure, though.
In his younger years, he tried his hand at storekeeping and farming. But in a span of seven years, he failed twice in those endeavours. Henry also added to his responsibilities by getting married.
With a growing family to support, he felt compelled to study law so that he could provide for them. As it turned out, this was an area he excelled in.
It only took Henry a couple of years after passing the bar to amass a large and profitable clientele, with criminal cases being his forte.
His court cases eventually led him to the opposition of British rule.
It started with the Parson’s Cause in 1763. In this case, he invoked the doctrine of natural rights that talks about certain unalienable rights that man is born with.
A couple of years later, Henry was a seated member of the lower house of the colonial legislature called the House of Burgesses. During his time there, he delivered a speech that opposed the British Stamp Act.
Over the course of the following decade, Henry rose as an influential leader against the British government. It was during his tenure as a political leader that he came to fame as an advocate of liberty.
Henry saw that war was inevitable. Because of that, he wanted to equip the Virginia militia for a fight. He defended his resolution with his famed declaration of, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
The Five Lessons
Who says you need to watch your contemporaries to learn powerful speaking lessons? Take a look at these key lessons that any speaker can use:
Lesson #1 – Always Close Strong
Opening lines are the first volley in any speech. But as the saying goes, “it’s not how you begin things, it’s how you end them.” That saying can apply to anything you do in life, but it’s especially true for a speaker.
Look at the closing lines of Patrick Henry’s speech:
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Henry’s speech at the beginning had a completely different feel to how he ended it.
At first, he spoke about the importance of civility. Henry denied disrespectful intentions, even going so far as to acknowledge the patriotism and abilities of his opponents.
It all changed by the ending, though.
He worked himself up and took his audience along for the emotional journey.
Throughout his whole speech is the comparison of freedom versus slavery. But at the very end, he entreats God to help him. And declares that he prefers death over living under tyrannical rule.
Your audience may not remember how you started your presentation, but they’ll surely remember the end. So, make sure to close strong to leave a lasting impression.
Lesson #2 – Confront Potential Differences of Opinion Early
As mentioned before, Henry opened his speech with an appeal to civility. He understood that the environment is a powder keg waiting to explode. So, he told the audience that his purpose is not to cast disparaging remarks on his opponents.
Patrick Henry understood that he may have a mixed audience. He confronted potential differences of opinion early on. Henry didn’t want contention to mar his message, so he addressed it at the beginning to ensure that everyone was ready to hear what he had to say.
Your audience members may have different opinions on your subject matter. And that’s okay! Just make sure to address it early.
It’s like the proverbial elephant in the room. Once you address it, your audience is free to attend to what you’re saying.
Lesson #3 – Appeal to the Ideals of Your Audience
The Founding Fathers were realists at heart. They believed that nature had a very real moral order. The order includes “certain unalienable rights” that belong to human beings simply by virtue of their humanity.
However, their beliefs were also tempered by political realism. As a political realist, Patrick Henry understood that humans had a tendency for weak and selfish behaviours. Because of that, they’re prone to violate other people’s rights.
In other words, humans want freedom for themselves. But it’s hard to resist the temptation to oppress others, too.
So, Henry spoke to the heart of his listeners. He spoke of the threat to their individual freedoms. Patrick Henry wanted people to rise up against British rule. And he understood that these freedoms and rights could only come if people fought to win and hold these rights themselves.
Knowing your audience is essential when you deliver your presentation. You want your speeches to resonate with your audience. But you can’t do it effectively if you don’t know your audience’s ideology.
Lesson #4 – Maintain Civility When Speaking About Sensitive Subjects
Patrick Henry implored his audience to use civility when addressing sensitive subjects. Volatile subjects have a tendency to explode if the speaker doesn’t handle it the right way.
However, Henry also went on to say that they need “candid civility.” In this instance, he’s not trying to offend. He also doesn’t want to avoid the hard truths of the subject matter just because some people may find it offensive.
Influencers bring up sensitive subjects sometimes. It’s these hard truths that keep your audience coming back for more. They want to learn more about themselves and the world around them.
But don’t set out to offend or insult them in the process.
That doesn’t mean you need to tiptoe around sensitive subjects. Maintaining candid civility is all about how you frame those hard truths.
Lesson #5 – Simple Words Often Inspire More Than the Complex Ones
Want to use complex words? Save them for your next scrabble game!
Simple words offer more power and pack more of a punch.
Because it makes the speech easy to understand at the moment. And even easier to recall at a later date.
Language simplicity also appeals to the masses. You want your audience to listen to your message and not puzzle over every other word coming out of your mouth.
Patrick Henry kept his words simple so that everyone understood his message. It was also easier for attendees to quote him later on because the language was easy to remember.
Influence a Nation with Key Presentation Skills
How do you move a nation?
The same way you move an audience, one well-placed word at a time.
You may not deliver a presentation of the “give me liberty” variety, but it can be memorable for those members of your audience. Just remember to use key lessons from Patrick Henry’s famous speech.
Closing strong is a key element that will have the audience talking about your presentation long after it’s over. It’s the metaphorical “mic drop.” And you want to end it as strongly as you started.
Also, you may have to bring up sensitive subjects from time to time. Remember to keep it civil and try to address the differences of opinion from the beginning.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid sensitive subjects altogether. Make sure, though, that it’s appropriate for your audience. In other words, do your research first!
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