Recently I’ve had several former clients ask me about helping them put together a speech to present to their organizations and their stakeholders. In a social media driven world, can a longer presentation still move people to take action? If you’re a serving leader, can you inspire your stakeholders to take action in 140 characters or more like President Kennedy? I was reminded by a writing mentor that President Kennedy’s speech that challenged America to go to the Moon lasted all of 17 minutes. Let’s see if I can help you become a more masterful communicator using several ideas that President Kennedy used to move a nation to action.
The first idea President Kennedy used was sharing a big vision in small details. When he talked about this journey to the moon and back, man had just begun reaching for the stars. John Glenn had taken his three orbits around the earth. President Kennedy shared both a simple idea and then backed it up with small details that would show people that we were on our way. He talked about the changes going on in Texas and then applied them to the country as a whole. He described in detail the rocket required to take the astronauts on the moon and return them safely to the earth.
He used vibrant language to describe the future. He described the rocket as being the length of a football field. Who in Texas doesn’t know the size of a football field? When describing the vehicle assembly building he described in detail using terms that every person could imagine. He understood how to provide the big picture but also how to make it a reality.
President Kenned shared what would be required to reach this goal by the end of the decade. Kennedy challenged us to a great adventure. People young and old were enthralled with his vision of the future driven by the many benefits that we would receive from the space program. He made it an issue of national pride. He understood that people are moved by belonging to something bigger than ourselves. His mission to the moon engaged the imagination of our nation’s best and brightest. He then widened the experience to include all the people of the world.
His second idea was that he made this a personal mission to those involved. He asked for a commitment from the people listening to the speech. He told them how they could be involved in this incredible project. He asked people to get involved in his vision. Many leaders share their vision, few remember to enlist others in their mission. He broke it down to the lowest possible factor when seeking to engage his audience. This is something many leaders fail to do. They are technically great speakers, but they cannot engage the listeners’ imaginations in their call to action. If you want to get things done in a better way, you must engage everyone in your plans. He also shared what would be required to make this a reality.
President Kennedy’s third idea was that he understood that it was not enough to call people to take action, he must add massive action to provide the foundation for success long term. He took NASA from 40,000 employees to 400,000 employees in less than five years. This massive project not only sparked the imagination, but jumpstarted the American economy. His vision provided our nation with the technology infrastructure that lasted for over several decades. This helped create a national legacy of high technology and innovation in many critical emerging industries including healthcare, telecommunications, aerospace, and information technology. The question I ask my leaders to consider is what impact their mission, vision, and values have on our society overall. If you can share and answer to this question, you find yourself in a great position to help your community and our world. President Kennedy understood this and the rest is history. We landed on the Moon and returned home safely in July, 1969 reaching his unimaginable goal with five months to spare.
As you think about President Kennedy, remember not only the man who was assassinated in Dallas, but also the vibrant, charismatic man who made us believe we could do the impossible. Remember the man whose words launched America into an incredible journey of wonder and discovery. If you’re too young to remember when anything was possible and the only limits you faced were in your imagination, here is a link to President Kennedy’s original speech. Please share it with family and friends
Next week I share what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. See you then