Stocking Inspiration: Your Holiday Party Speech

by Peter Watts and Gavin McMahon

Will your Holiday speech be a Holiday stocking, with tempting surprises and interesting shapes?
To help you to write one that has your team rocking,
We’ve prepared a short list of some toys we’ve been stocking.

As you plan your speech for the office party this year, wouldn’t it be great to have a team of speech-writing elves on hand to do the heavy lifting for you.

Well you do! Your own specialist elves, Gavin and Peter, have prepared a stocking full of festive ideas.

Choose just three or four of these professional Yuletide speaking techniques, and you’ll have Jolly Holiday oratory to be proud of.

For supporting your theme

Anaphora: A Christmas tricycle

A three wheeler bike gives perfect support no matter how fast you might ride. No wobble for you; there’s a wheel at each corner. Holiday messages get that same solid stability when you include the same phrase in consecutive lines of your speech:

This year we’ve delivered service that is the best in the market.
We’ve been able to give our customers a product that is the best in the market, and that’s because we have a team of people who are the best in the market!

Let’s celebrate a successful year past
Let’s celebrate a successful year ahead
Let’s celebrate  an incredibly well earned holiday

For linking ideas

Anadiplosis: The train-set

For one step further on the tricycle theme, try a train-set!

Just as train-sets link together with the rear of one car connecting to the front of the car behind it, you can string phrases together with the last word of one line becoming the first word of the next.

It’s a stylish technique that connects themes, and sounds superb.

I wish you happy holidays. Holidays full of excitement. Excitement that brings you back refreshed next year.

 Make it a priority this holiday to find some downtimeDowntime allows time for reflection, and reflection gives rise to new ideas; new ideas that lead to new opportunities.

For really hammering home the holidays

Metanoia: Candy cane pencil with eraser & sharpener

What better way to write your Holiday speech than with a candy cane pencil. Only for this technique you’ll also need an eraser and sharpener because you’re going to turn the usual bland Holiday greetings into something far sharper!

First think of a nicely classical Holiday greeting, such as “I wish you all happy holidays.” Now take your eraser and audibly rub-out the bland, replacing it with something far sharper:

 I wish you all happy holidays. No, I wish you all sensational holidays!

 This has been a good year. No, strike that. This has been a fantastic year!

For listing accomplishments

Polysyndeton: Eight tiny reindeer

Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen, On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen.”

Each name stands-out brighter than a Santa suit in a snow-drift. This is because each is emphasised by the stressed word that appears before it. Imagine if the line went: “Now Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.” They’d all become one long stretch-reindeer blur.

For lists of accomplishments, make each stand proud by replacing commas, with the word “and”:

This year we’ve launched products and won clients and expanded the business and been more successful than ever before.

 We’ve grown the team and increased our service levels and developed the business.

To pack items into a list without those items blurring, remember the old saying:

Many ‘ands make lists work!

For encouraging miraculous achievements

Argumentum a Fortiori: A Charlie Brown Tree

Charlie Brown conjured the holiday magic from the unpromising foundation of that poor little Christmas Tree. The last one on the lot, and missing all it’s needles. It was a Charlie Brown Tree, and everybody laughed at it. But Charlie Brown’s indomitable spirit made that tree glitter.

Where have your team conquered seemingly unconquerable odds. Emphasise those moments. Celebrate those moments. Conjure the magic of past achievements, and your team will conjure magical achievements to come.

We’ve grown the business. If we can grow the business in a recession year like this,
then think what we can achieve next year.”

“We’d all agree that project ABC was the most demanding assignment we’ve ever been asked to do.
It was a tight deadline. It was a challenging client. And they kept changing the specs. And still we achieved it!
If we can meet that sort of pressure, we can meet anything!”

For defining ideas

Analogical reasoning: A drum kit & Snakes and Ladders

There are toys children love to receive but that parents hate them to be given. Drum kits for example. Why do parents hate Holiday drum kits?

It’s because drums are to family friction as games are to family fun

Analogies create the illusion of cause and effect: A is to B, as C is to D. It makes your case sound logical and your logic sound vivid. Where things are vivid, they are always remembered!

Make them seasonal: Santa is to Christmas as the Bunny is to Easter

Make them businesslike: Creativity is to success as oxygen is to breathing

Make them funny: Holiday time with the family can be to relaxation as a canal-root filling is to massage

For tackling painful memories

Litotes: A lump of coal

A lump of coal in the stocking means someone’s been bad. There are times though when it isn’t someone who’s been bad, but something that’s been bad, such as hard times or tough decisions during the year just passed.

In a Holiday speech, your team will expect you to reference those times, but with this being a celebration you don’t want to collapse the party spirit.

Negatives need acknowledging without re-animating, so use a “not……but…” structure:

This past year has not been without it’s challenges, but……

There have been times when this past year has not been the easiest, but…..

We’ve had to make decisions that have not been happy ones, but….

Follow that “but…” with an uplifting statement. You will have nodded to the tough times, but immediately re-directed your audience to better times to come.

To create a sound that sounds superb

Alliteration: A Suzy Snowflake snowglobe

Seasonal sound-bites often use words that start with the same letters. Let’s take “Suzy Snowflake”, and “Dominick the Donkey”, and then of course there’s the phrase itself: “Happy Holidays”.

Doesn’t “Delightfully delicious” sound so much more delicious than “delicious” alone? Instead of a “peaceful holiday”, how about a “perfectly peaceful holiday”?

Doubling down on opening consonants doubles the delight of delivery.

To avoid it all becoming a just little too sugary….

Oxymoron: Sour candies

Christmas Rhetoric-05

There’s a way to double-up on the double-sound technique, that’ll make your Holiday audience pucker-up with pleasure.

Like the most mouth-watering of Holiday candies, this treat starts sour, and then turns sweet!

Take two words that start with the same letter, but have more or less opposite meanings. Now try colliding them together. Make sure the first one’s nasty, and the second one’s nice!

Fearsomely festive

Disgustingly delightful

Fiendishly fun-filled

Horribly happy

It’s a tasty little contradiction that offers sweetness with a twist.

To add festive colour

Epithets: A box of crayons

Whilst plain speaking might be admired, a speech that is plain is a speech that will fail.

Your Holiday speech needs to move, to inspire, and above all, to be remembered. It needs to have colours. The colours of a bright box of brand new crayons.

Google search for a “Christmas Word Cloud”. There are lots out there to choose from and sprinkle some of it’s sparkling adjectives throughout your speech. Go with an approximate ratio of 1:50. For every 50 words of plain speaking, make sure you have at least one bright splash of festive colour.

May your Holiday speech be bright. May your Holiday speech be memorable. And may your Holiday speech be fun.

If you have fun in it’s writing, then you’ll have fun in it’s delivery, and if you’re enjoying it then you can guarantee that your audience will as well.

Happy Holidays!

 

For even more ideas about writing and delivering Holiday speeches, try this article as well: “Unaccustomed as I ham”

When your first public speech is in the service of others

spotlight

A first presentation can lead to profound opportunity

by Peter Watts

Many presenters find they are first moved to speak in public not by professional or business requirements, but because somebody needs to stand-up for their community. A local need or a perceived injustice means that somebody needs to step up to the plate.

If you need to speak before the Town Council or the School Board or the PTA or any similar group of elected or non-elected bureaucrats, it can be helpful to your cause if you can move their hearts as well as their minds.

Appealing to logic will get you nowhere. You need emotion.

In last week’s State of the Union Address, President Obama had to make just such an appeal. It was an appeal for legislator’s to allow a vote on gun control. What techniques did he use in order to achieve it?

Here are the words themselves:

“Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.”

Powerful in impact, the President’s words were surprisingly simple in construction, and you can use the same techniques.

The power of his appeal came from the combination of four techniques.

Technique 1: Pathos

Pathos tugs directly at emotions and makes any speech intensely personal. This isn’t a speech about abstract victims of gun-crime but a speech about victims of gun-crime who are right here in the room. They are named individuals known to the audience. When an appeal is based upon a group who are either known to the audience or in close proximity to them, the emotional intensity becomes hard to resist.

Technique 2: Repetition

The passage is comprised of five phrases, each of which ends with the words “deserve a vote.”  This is Epistrophe; a repetition pattern that concludes adjacent phrases with the same words. That repetition becomes a drum-beat, that progressively increases the speaker’s intensity with each occurrence.

Technique 3: Mass Conjunctions

Entering into the final phrase, the power of Epistrophe is joined by a deliberate over-use of the conjunction “and”:

“The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.”

This is Polysyndeton. Conjunctions bring more weight to a list than a silent comma ever can, and raises the drum-beat rhythm to an even higher pitch.

Technique 4: Diminution

Suddenly, that drum-beat crescendo is cancelled. Take a look at the final repetition. It’s been modified. Rather than “deserve a vote”, the President now uses the phrase “deserve a simple vote.”

This is Diminution. After building the juggernaut, Barack Obama has introduced the word “simple”. How tiny and miniature that word seems when compared against a catalogue of horrors. After such a list of tragedy, what person could possibly deny the bereaved a “simple vote”.

Take the challenge

If you ever find yourself undertaking your first piece of public speaking in order to do good for others, that challenge can appear daunting.

Accept the challenge. This is what public speaking is all about. It’s all about finding your voice and the power that goes with it.

Don’t be afraid to use emotion. Don’t be afraid to try out techniques. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.

A good friend of mine found herself in just such a position, and since that first appearance she’s gone on to be elected as Deputy Mayor of our town.

When you find your voice in the service of helping others, and rise to the occasion, you never know to what other successes it will lead you.

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