Crafting a great speech is like making music. In music, rhyme, rhythm, timing, pacing, and melodic repetition are essential for listeners to retain your message and sing or hum certain passages over and over again. In speeches, the same elements ensure that key phrases linger in people’s minds and act to inspire, delight, and move them to action.
Repetition is one of the key elements of a good speech. However short or long the speech, repetition creates a rhythm that allows the speaker to not only stress an important concept or idea, but also to show deep personal passion and fervor.
There are two kinds of repetition that are interesting to note. One technique is called Anaphora, which is repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences. The other is called Epistrophe, which is the use of repetition at the end of a sentence. These are both very powerful tools for creating inspiring and motivating speech passages. Here are two examples:
Let’s use Hillary Clinton in her well known 1996 speech at the Democratic National Convention:
“To raise a happy, healthy and hopeful child, it takes a family, it takes teachers, it takes clergy, it takes business people, it takes community leaders, it takes those who protect our health and safely, it takes all of us.”
Such repetition reinforces the key message and keeps the pace and timing alive for the listeners – it is musical and appealing. This is the kind of phrase that will linger in the listener’s mind long after the speech is over (in this case thirteen years after!).
Here’s Hillary again some years later and still using great rhetorical technique:
“If women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work, their families will flourish.”
Again, the repetition artfully drives home the key message – the one people will remember long after the applause is over.
Remember Anaphora and Epistrophe. Wherever you use them, do so sparingly and they will add a powerful cadence of meaning and passion to any inspirational speech.