Monday, August 17, 2009

speaking up for a cause: j. novogratz

Jacqueline Novogratz founded and leads the Acumen Fund, which approaches nonprofit work--in this case, global humanitarian aid--with bottom-up, business tactics. I want you to watch this video from the TED conference paying particular attention to the story she tells at the beginning about her blue sweater. It's a compelling opening, just the kind of start you should plan for your next speech. Why?

  • She paints a visual picture of it with words. I can see that sweater without any pictures, slides or drawings.
  • She shares her feelings, moving us with quick but powerful descriptions of how she loved, then loathed the sweater as a child and a young woman. Her voice adds emotional emphasis just where she needs it, and she takes the time to talk about ceremoniously throwing it away with her mother. A touch of humor helps, too, as she looks back on her younger self.
  • She connects it with a moment of inspiration. Persuasion is the secret sauce of eloquent speakers, a factor that's included in nearly every definition of eloquence. We need to know--particularly if you represent a cause--what motivates you to work on that issue or with those people, why you do it, where you get your inspiration. The moment she found her sweater in Africa years later provides that in this speech.
  • She connects it to the present and her work. All the emotion and persuasion in this speech opener has a purpose. It's not just there to warm hearts, but to introduce the meat of this talk. Bringing the audience quickly through her story and telling us how it informs her work today brings us to the real point of her talk--something you, too, should plan into your presentations.

Planning a strong, personal opening like this one makes an enormous difference in securing your audience's attention from the start. Whether you speak on behalf of a cause or just want to share your passion about your work, this is a great video to learn from. As with all the TED conference talks, you can go to this link for the video, an interactive transcript, downloads and more.


Deidree Bennett said...

What an inspiring and educational speech! i look forward to finding out more about Acumen fund.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Deidree, indeed inspiring. But for discussion purposes, I had a few thoughts about her presentation that proved disappointing. Her facial expression was pained (or maybe the lights in her eyes were distracting). And her hand gestures were distracting.

Her tone was so serious, it may have . Her subject matter was so full of "wow," that maybe that inhibits some speakers - righteousness begets an "okay" factor in speech style - I mean how great does the speech have to be if the topic itself has proven so enlightening?

More than once she says, "and I'm going to get to that later," or "and I'm going to tell you more about that in a bit..." Granted, this was likely edited, but in a speech under 30 minutes, it might be better to just tell the audience your points instead of previewing them.

I would be very interested in how to practice this kind of speech. So much of her intimate self and experience seems to have gone into the work. It must be incredibly difficult to talk about it repeatedly, especially when you are excited and hoping to educate and maybe even recruit.

Still, a wonderful presentation, but I thought these comments might inspire a discussion.