Friday, July 15, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Holly Peterson on 'the best adversity training'

You probably don't think of spoken-word poetry and tackle football as being in the same skill set, but they're both talents of Holly K. Peterson. Also known as HK Poet when she's slamming poetry, Peterson plays professional women's tackle football for the Sacramento Sirens. And at the National Football League's first-ever Women's Summit, held just before the 2016 Super Bowl, Peterson wowed the crowd performing an ode to what she called the "sisterhood of sports."

She started with a vivid description of how it felt to catch her first ball, then let the audience savor their own memories:
It was my first taste of greatness. It was just a sip. But whether it was a catch or a throw or a pass or a goal, if you are savoring a similar memory on your lips, then I know you know what I’m talking about. Because you see, you and me, we are part of a sisterhood. A sisterhood of sports, a solidarity of sorts, a mixed bag of background, bonded by every compliment that made us want to be better than just fast for a girl, than just strong for a girl, than just good for a girl. We are the lost stars of our universe. Forever being compared to the sun.
And with a nod to all the women and girls who love competing in sports, but will never make it professionally, she deftly describes what holds them back--the same thing that the women in the room have overcome:
Far too often, they’ve been judged by how they look rather than how they play. Rather than asked to twirl and smile for the camera, have been called the B word that isn’t beautiful, have been pushed back like a cubical, have been told that America is only looking for the slam dunk. So, we got creative. And we became resilient. Because we went through the best adversity training that money could buy.  
Peterson's talk moved the crowd and was singled out for sharing widely after the summit. What can you learn from this famous speech?

  • Poetry can add sparkle to your speech: In this talk, Peterson uses poetic devices like repetition and rhyming sparingly, but to good effect. Whether you are quoting a poem or delivering your remarks in that form, poetry can add a distinguishing feature to your speech. Here, it set her remarks apart on a day in which many speeches were given.
  • Adversity and passion make a great contrast: This could have been strictly a salute to what's wonderful about sport for women. But by including the hard-fought battles and obstacles faced by women athletes, the joyous parts of the experience are seen as well-earned, rather than just magically wonderful. Blues singers refer to this as a mix of "juice and pain," and it's a smart way to keep your remarks from being overly saccharine.
  • Give us vivid images in our mind's eye: Peterson's opening about her first catch gets the audience engaged right away, imagining this scene: "I remember the first time I caught a ball. It was a happy accident. I was 5 or 6 six years old at my daddy’s baseball game when I just happened to be running along the outskirts of outfield when a fowl ball took a bad hope. I barely remember seeing it. But I remember hearing the sound of my glove pop, feeling it stuck in my clutch like it belonged to me. Like it was a part of me. Like it was my destiny to be standing in that exact spot. I remember the way the crowd stopped and the amazement on their faces as I threw the ball all the way back to the third baseman." I call this the invisible visual, and it will be remembered long after any slides you use are forgotten.

 Watch This Female Football Player's Inspiring Speech About Being a Woman Athlete

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