The Value of Inspiration
We all develop routines, often forgetting what
first motivated us toward a particular goal or even what our goals
are. For this reason, we periodically need
new motivation to help us break out of our routines and set and
achieve goals. This need is a challenge for you
as a speaker, one can meet by understanding how to inspire an
Essentially, your purpose in this type of speech is to
say what your listeners already think and feel. You're speaking for
the audience, putting their sentiments
into words appropriate to the occasion. This approach appeals to noble
motives and the highest beliefs.
The Great Speech
Many times, in many countries, great crises have been
met and overcome because a leader was able to inspire people with the
right words spoken in the right way. One such time was during the
United States Constitutional Convention in 1789. The delegates
were attempting to create a constitution for the new country, but they
were divided into angry factions. They became so
disheartened that many delegates wanted to patch together an easy
compromise and go home.
Then their chairman, George
Washington, rose and delivered one of the briefest speeches in the
history of statesmanship. "If we
offer to the people something of which we ourselves do not
approve," he said, "how can we afterwards defend our work? Let
us raise a standard to which the wise and honest may gladly repair.
The event is in the hands of God."
There was silence when he finished.
The members looked at one another, first in shame, then with
determination. They resumed their work and
produced the United States Constitution, one of the greatest documents
Who Are You?
George Washington's short talk illustrates the two
foundations of a speech to inspire: who you are, and what you say. He
didn't find those stirring words in a book.
They grew out of his character, out of what his work meant to him.
Similarly, you must search yourself
to find the material for an inspirational speech. To be effective,
such a speech cannot be superficial.
You're the leader in this situation, and you must exhibit the
qualities of leadership. This type of talk calls for dignity, excellence
of style, and an emotional rapport with your audience.
As you speak, you should follow
these four essential precepts of leadership:
Confident. Since you're giving expression to
something your audience already feels and believes, this
isn't the place to raise questions or express doubts.
Forceful. Show enthusiasm and vitality. Use
body language to demonstrate your conviction. Paint vivid
word pictures to bring the audience
"up the mountain" with you.
Positive. Bold statements telling the
audience what they should do will stir them to action;
criticizing them or making excuses for what they have
failed to do will not inspire them at all.
Define. Give clear and specific illustrations
and conclusions. Present enough information to make sure
your audience is with you all the way.
Qualities of an
Since you are putting into words the common
aspirations, feelings, and beliefs of your audience, you are not
expected to present earthshaking new
ideas. Rather, your goals are to:
the audience together in a mood of fellowship and shared
2. Build the audience's
enthusiasm and draw it out
3. Give the audience a
clear sense of purpose.
The word "inspire" means "to breathe
into." Your speech should contain illustrations and thoughts that
capture the audience's imagination and
breathe life into the talk. The words will vary with the occasion - a
football rally, a political meeting, a religious service
- but the goal is the same. You are there to lift up your listeners
with words and inspire them to achieve great things.
Preparing Your Talk
The basic principle of the inspirational speech is to
build your talk out of the occasion on which you're presenting it. To
do this you must have a feeling for the
people in your audience and their expectations.
Since understanding your audience is so important,
you're especially fortunate in knowing the members of your
Toastmasters Club well. You should be able
to prepare a speech that precisely fits them. However, if you would
like to present a talk that would fit a
hypothetical special occasion, tell the Toastmaster of the meeting
what occasion you are assuming so it can be announced
to the audience. The occasion could be a pre-game pep talk, sales
talk, or commencement address.
Whatever type of inspirational talk
you are preparing, first consider your real or imagined audience and
what they may be thinking. Then, as a
representative of this group, consider what you would want to hear and
what you already know that could contribute
to this talk. Complete this process by finding appropriate facts,
quotes, and inspirational thoughts from other sources, then assemble
You may also channel the feelings of the audience in a
direction different from what they expect, as long as their basic mood or
beliefs are not challenged. While expressing the feelings of the
audience, you may wish to improve the quality of those feelings,
such as replacing selfish motives with more generous ones. When your
audience accepts you as one of them, they will accept
and be grateful for your attempts to lift their feelings to a more
Presenting the Talk
Just as the content of your talk is determined by the
occasion, the delivery must be appropriate to the mood of the audience, such
as thoughtful, enthusiastic, mournful, exalted. You should display
those aspects of your personality that conform most closely
to the feelings of the group. Emphasize your agreement with the
audience, using phrases that include "we" and
This type of speech - more than any
other - depends on the quality and style of your delivery. Your
presentation should be direct and urgent, showing that you really care
how your listeners react. Your speaking should be controlled and
confident while showing sincerity and
enthusiasm. Give your audience reason to respect your balanced
judgment and deep understanding.
Rely heavily on illustrations and
examples to make your audience feel what you feel. Choose your words
carefully and aim them for the heart, not
Your evaluator will expect you to choose a
subject that fits a real or simulated occasion and express the highest
feelings of the audience on that occasion.
Through use of examples and illustrations, you should bring the
audience up to a higher level of belief or
achievement. Use all the skills you have learned, including body
language, voice control, and persuasion, to deliver a
powerful and appropriate message.