What we can learn from JK Rowling’s Failure

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

This beautiful, funny and humble commencement address not only offers inspiration to lead a fulfilling life, but illustrates how to deliver a fantastic speech. Head over to the Ted Website to watch JK Rowling ( of Harry Potter fame ) give her speech to a graduating Harvard class, then take a moment to observe the elements of public speaking she employs.

1-    A Gracious Intro: It’s incredibly difficult to thank people who have invited you to speak without sounding scripted or cold. JK allows her gratitude shine through by thanking everyone with a charming joke. If you are taking the time to thank the audience and planners, or people attending a presentation, make sure you mean what you say.

2-    Comfort Level: A natural storyteller, JK takes her time while delivering her speech. Watch how she calmly glances at her notes to keep her gaze up at the crowd. By keeping a steady pace, allowing time to clearly pronounce words and check on where the speech is heading, you’ll be able stay cool as a cucumber.

3-    Humor: Charming jokes pepper every part of her speech- she even pokes fun at herself and her books. This level of humor is difficult for everyone to pull off, but using jokes you feel relaxed about delivering make even the most stressful presentation seem manageable.

4-    Structure: Although full of anecdotes and personal images, JK has a clear trajectory for her speech. She clarifies points and lets the audience know where she is headed by announcing the themes she will discuss.  Harvard Magazine published the entire speech, so take a peek if you are interested in diving into the structure further.

5-    Simplicity: This is a long speech given to a huge group of people, but JK is able to sum up her entire speech in one sentence – “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.” Being able to wrap up your message in one sentence means you are clear on what you are communicating.

6-    Powerful Statements: You don’t have to be a bestselling author to craft a powerful speech. Here is a few sentences of JK’s speech:

“Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.”

What JK is describing is quite intoxicating, but the way she delivers it gives the words extra strength. She utilizes lists, one of the easiest ways to add power to your sentences. She also repeats a phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or lines, a literary device called Anaphora. Repetition adds a natural cadence and signals to your audience that what you are saying is important.

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About releaseyourvoices

Release Your Voice with Pamela Hart: Public Speaking training based in Vancouver BC. We offer training seminars, oral presentation skills, corporate communication, private lessons or group training
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