One more reason to love Portland: 27 years of speech recordings discovered at PSU

The invaluable Ian Griffin reports on a fantastic discovery by a Portland State University archivist:

a box of reel-to-reel recordings of campus speeches by figures such as LSD advocate Timothy Leary, Robert F. Kennedy speaking a few short weeks before his assassination, Nobel prize-winner Linus Pauling speaking on the effects of radioactive fallout a few months before the Cuban Missile crisis, and poet Allan Ginsberg.

And PSU has obligingly digitized them and posted them online. (I resent this just a little bit, because it costs me an excuse to go to Portland. Breakfast at Tasty n Sons, a day of listening to great speeches and an evening at Powell’s, anyone..?)

As exciting as it can be to read a great speech, they’re intended to be heard — making this find a thrilling one for speechwriters.


And in the end…

In a great wide-ranging report on a National Speakers Association convention panel from Ian Griffin, these two sentences seized my attention:

Dychtwald claimed he gets more accomplished in the last 60 seconds of a speech than in the first 30 minutes. “The audience are with me, everything I say hits home.”

from How to write a keynote speech – secrets of masterful presenters

In speech after speech, I’ve seen a mad rush to the exits… by the speaker. The ending is perfunctory, or forced, or cliched, or a rote recap of the main points of the speech — but the underlying message is the same: Let’s get this over with.

Which is a huge, huge waste.

The audience has just spent the last 15 or 20 minutes getting to know the world you’ve created and the possibilities you’ve promised. If you’ve told your story at all well, then their emotional engagement will never be higher than it is as you conclude.

This is the time to make the call to action. And not a call to action that’s about you, but one that’s about them. How they can take some step that will put them on the path to a crucial change. How they can make a profound difference for themselves and the world.

This is the point where you can deepen the relationship you and your audience have been building with each other, and vest it with meaning.

If you’re writing a speech, and the sight of the finish line makes you want to rush, get up immediately from the keyboard. Step back, and reconnect with the speech’s real purpose. What change do you want to make in your audience? What change do you want your audience to make to the world?

Now go back and craft a dramatic climax – not just an ending.