I have a dream

The next legend in a series on public speaking experts is one of the greatest orators ever, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is a legendary orator.   We are lucky enough to have video clips of Dr. King to view, study and learn from.

Dr. King inspired, and continues to inspire people with the power of his speech and the power of his actions. His speeches should be staples on playlists and iPods as his speeches are inspirational even on dark days. He is unquestionably a public speaking expert.

This clip is the conclusion of Dr. King’s final speech, given at Mason Temple in Memphis on April 3rd — he was assassinated the next day.

Listen carefully to the language and word choice. He was speaking in support of the striking sanitation workers in Memphis.  The sheer energy that this clip contains is unbelievable. One can feel the power through the short clip on Youtube — imagine the energy that must have been in the room that day in Memphis!

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” address from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  The 17 minute address is an amazing oratorical display. Here are 7 lessons:

1. Cadence – Dr. King control of cadence is simply amazing; no words are lost and key pauses exist throughout the entire address. Cadence is so important to every presenter- one technique to learn cadence that I employ often – read great speeches along with the soundtrack of the person delivering it.

2. Rhythm – Great speeches have great cadence, and great rhythm.  This speech had both.

3. Inflection – There is no question at any point in this speech which words are stressed; there should be no confusion in the audience with regard to the point you are trying to make.

4. Eye Contact – Dr. King reads quite a bit of the speech, but when he reaches this crucial section, his eyes never wander – they look right at the 200,000 people watching him

5. Rhetorical Tools – Dr. King’s use of Anaphora – repeating of a sequence of words at the beginning of sentences, or clauses to add emphasis – “I have a dream…; I have a dream…”; another great example – Churchill’s “We Shall Fight” speech.  Anaphora is one example of what are countless valuable rhetorical devices available to all presenters.

6. Passion – Is there any question Dr. King felt every single word as he delivered it?  While your presentation may not be on a subject as important to you, there needs to be something that you feel strongly about in or around the subject matter – find it.

7. Practice – It is rumored that Dr. King went off script at the end of this address, however it is also rumored he practiced the vast majority of this address extensively prior to delivering it.  Chances are, you are probably not as oratorically gifted as MLK; if he had to practice, you have to practice.

Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



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