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A commercial edge for public speaking

Radio commercials are a lot like speeches

Both involve writing for the spoken word and passion in their presentation

Before I began teaching public speaking, I had a great deal of high-leverage experience in writing for the spoken word. In my career as a copywriter, I wrote countless radio commercials and scores of sales presentations and speeches for mid-to-upper level corporate managers.

I also directed and coached people ranging from nervous high school students to high-school-drop-out shop-floor machinists to the County Executive of Long Island’s Suffolk County.

With some directorial help and a little recording engineer magic, they were able deliver the words I had written for them with award-winning quality (including the Big Apple Radio Award for Best New Advertiser, and the Long Island Radio Broadcasters Association award for Best Public Service Advertising).

I suspect their performances would not have been as successful if they thought they were delivering 30- or 60-second speeches.

We have all heard thousands of commercials, and we expect them to sell… To be delivered with conviction, passion and emotion. To be laced with drama and humor. To address us, the target audience, in ways that engage with us directly and intimately in our own language and on our own terms.

We know how commercials are supposed to sound and what they are supposed to do.

Even the most introverted college freshpeople are usually capable of writing and delivering impassioned and engaging approximations of radio commercials.

But if they have to give a 60-second speech? Ugh! The results are likely to be an exercise in internal terror expressed outwardly as a mumbling and mind-numbing monotony that will seem to last for an eternity.

Hmmm. What do you suppose would happen if we trick them into thinking the speech is really a radio commercial?