One of my favourite things about Facebook is that Jon Favreau’s community page lists him as “musician/band”.

Not just because he’s kind of a rock star (in, you know, speechwriter terms).

But because I’ve argued for a long time that speeches are more than a little like live music:

They rely on pace, rhythm and cadence. Pausing for effect, slowing down for emphasis, switching up sentence length, parallel structure—heck, your keyboard might as well be a drum kit.

They have a dramatic arc. Beginning, middle, end; question, conflict, resolution; a good speech has a strong dramatic structure that drives home the message and call to action.

They rely on emotional resonance. No speech works at a purely intellectual level. Persuasion (and I’d argue that every speech ultimately aims to persuade) is an emotional process. And the personal connection an audience feels to a speaker is just as emotional.

They’re bound to time. Neither a speechwriter or a live performer can rely on listeners being able to go back and re-listen if there’s something that wasn’t clear.

This comparison probably won’t help you negotiate a bowl full of green M&Ms and a Perrier fountain at your next speechwriting gig. But maybe it can help you to hear a little of the music in your writing—and strike a stronger (wait for it) chord with your next audience.

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