So, You Want to Speak Like Churchill
“ He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle to steady his fellow countrymen and hearten those Europeans upon whom the long dark night of tyranny had descended. ” – Edward R. Murrow, on Winston Churchill, 1954
What did Edward R. Murrow mean in the above quote when he said of Winston Churchill, “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle . . .?” Mr. Murrow meant during the dark days of the Nazi “blitz” and all during World War II Winston Churchill galvanized the will of the English people to fight even to the point of death to eradicate the British Isles of the Nazi menace.
You all have heard the saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” I posit the spoken word is more powerful than the pen.
Your job as a presenter is to “galvanize” your audience into making their opinion of your topic their opinion. I can think of no better person that epitomizes exerting influence on their audience that Winston Churchill.
Below I examine three of Winston Churchill’s speeches and how he used his spoken word to greatly “galvanize” his audience to his way of thinking.
Use Powerful and Descriptive Statements
On May 13, 1940, Winston Churchill addressed Parliament about the frightening threat posed by Nazi Germany . He had just been appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain. Churchill was attempting to prepare Great Britain for the arduous road ahead in the face of Nazi aggression.
My goal here is not to give you a history lesson, thought this history is fascinating, but to examine different parts of Winston Churchill’s speeches to Parliament and point out how he used his spoken word to greatly influence his audience, Parliament and the British people. You can use the same devices Churchill used to influence your audiences.
In the late William Safire’s book, “Lend Me Your Ears,” he points out the following description by Winston Churchill of the Nazi menace: “ . . . a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime.” Wow! What a powerfully descriptive statement. Can you make statements in your presentation more descriptive and powerful? I think you can!
Mr. Churchill shows what he and his new government had to offer by saying, “I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer by blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering.”
So what does Mr. Churchill do in the above section of his speech? Notice he uses alliteration – “ . . . many, many, months of struggle and suffering .” Why does he do this? Because alliteration is easier for the audience to remember. Churchill wanted this speech to resonate in the minds of Members of Parliament and the British people far after his speech was done.
If Churchill had one good speech with his future speeches lackluster, he would have been dismissed as a “one hit wonder.” But that was not Churchill’s way. He realized the English language could be “mobilized” to move the hearts and minds of his country’s citizens to steel them for the difficult months and years ahead.
On May 26, 1940, in the evacuation of Dunkirk, France started with the Royal Air Force playing a major role in denying the Nazis air supremacy in the skies over Dunkirk. It was hoped 45,000 Allied troops could be evacuated. At the end of the Dunkirk evacuation, 338,000 Allied troops were evacuated. Amazing!
Thousands of British citizens with any type of boat forged the English Channel to save their countrymen. That kind of duty requires enormous inspiration. Churchill gave that inspiration to the British people.
Use Repeated Words so Your Points can “Hit Home” with Your Audience
On June 4, 1940, Winston Churchill reported to the House of Commons on the Dunkirk evacuation . He talked about the struggle. He said,
“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender . . .”
What can you learn from this quote? Notice how Churchill keeps repeating the words “ . . . we shall fight . . .” If you have to make sure something “hits home” in your speech, repeat the words you want to “hit home.”
Churchill goes on in the same speech saying,
“ . . . and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
This example of Churchill’s spoken word also points out that you are most convincing when you are yourself. He showed his absolute sincerity in believing in the end, the British Empire would have the resources to beat down the tyranny of Nazism.
Churchill made a career of being himself and moving millions of his country men and women and the world. You can move your audiences in like manner. You have to believe in what you are saying in your presentations before the audience will believe it.
From July 1940 to October 1940, the Battle of Britain, the fight for air supremacy over the skies of Britain, raged on.
Use the “Rule of Three” to Make Your Points More Easily Remembered
On August 20, 1940, Churchill again addressed the House of Commons . During the speech he praised the airmen of the RAF by saying this:
“The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion.”
Wow! In the field of public speaking, Churchill is a superstar. Notice his use of the words, “ . . . except in the abodes of the guilty . . .” meaning the Nazis. Very powerful!
In the same speech, he went on to say, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Notice how he uses the terms, “so much,” “so many,” and just when you are expecting a like term, Churchill comes back with the limited words, “to so few.” Try this in your speaking.
Notice also, that he uses the “rule of three.” When you are speaking a list of terms, two terms seem not enough, four terms seem too much, but three terms seem just right. See, I just invoked the “rule of three” in the last sentence. Saying items in threes resonates with audiences. Try it in your next presentation.
So what have you learned from Winston Churchill about the power of the spoken word?
Use alliteration so it is easier for the audience to remember what you say
Use colorful words in your descriptions that form hooks in the audience members’ minds
“Mobilize” your language to win the hearts and minds of your audience
Repeatedly say the words you want to “hit home”
Be sincere in what you believe – your audience will only believe what you are saying if you believe what you are saying
You are the most convincing when you are yourself
Use the “rule of three” to make your points more easily remembered by your audience
You too can learn to move audiences like Winston Churchill did. Will it take practice? Of course, but practicing these methods and using Churchill’s methods of the spoken word will increasingly increase your influence with your audiences. Isn’t that why you are speaking?
“Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king. He is an independent force in the world.” – Winston Churchill
Looking for professional services to help you significantly increase your influence with your audiences? Contact DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI) at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 815-1324