#74 The EPIC effect of rhythm!
I have been privileged to personally be part of an audience and experiencing the wonderful performance of more than 30 outstanding platform speakers in my life.
What’s made them ‘outstanding’ was subtle. For many years, it remained a mystery to me as to why these speakers were so memorable… why they are what I describe as my top 30 experiences as an audience member.
I’ve read the transcripts and listen to the available audios of the top 30 political speeches ever given in the USA. I noticed, they too had this mysterious quality… and then one day, it dawned on my… they all had one thing in common. They all possessed a certain quality called rhythm.
Today I’m going to talk about the EPIC Effect of Rhythm and how you can have it as a communicator. No matter where we are, in a client’s meeting room sitting around a table on a platform in front of thousands… the principles I’m going to share with you today will work.
Now, just to remind you, EPIC is an acronym for Engaging, Persuading, Impacting and Compelling.
Since ‘definition is critical for clarity’, let’s start by defining what we mean by ‘having rhythm’ as a business communicator. The word rhythm literally means ‘a strong, regular repeated pattern of movement or sound’. A real in-depth look at the meaning of the word can be found on Wikipedia.
The late Maya Angelou was a profoundly wise voice and amongst many of her insightful… and life enhancing saying was, “Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.”
As a speaker, when you have rhythm… you dance. You flow. You are a relationship of connections.
When you picture a speaker using rhythm I want you to see them speaking with a cadence. The effective use of cadence is the ability to use a phrase with disciplined repetition. It’s this disciplined repetition that connects the words into the ear for greater rhythmic impact and memorability.
Probably the best example that everyone will recognise immediately is the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr.
To Listen to the entire I Have A Dream speech click here.
Listen to the cadence of this classic speech.
“And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that.
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
Or, how about Winston Churchill’s speech given to the British Parliament in June 1940. Listen to the entire speech by clicking here.
“We shall fight on the seas and oceans. We shall fight with growing confidence and strength in the air. We shall fight to defend our islands, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!”
A more modern platform master is Barak Obama.
In my opinion, he is probably one of the most influential communicators we will see in our lifetime. Obama has mastered a certain cadence that’s very effective. As he’s talking, he turns to the right to make his first point with a rise, then he turns to his left with a fall in his voice to close.
Obama puts on a showcase of The Eight Constant Factors of a Platform Mastery. He is engaging, persuasive, impacting and compelling. He is passionate and always speaks with clarity of purpose. His posture is commanding and his ability to use his voice with texture, nuance and projection are wonderfully balanced.
An Obama speech has such rhythm that there is almost a musicality about it. In fact, his ‘Yes We Can’ speech was literally put to music and became a major hit.
Obama’s speechwriters were obsessive over rhythm and cadence.
Look at the rhythm, the cadence of the opening lines of one of his victory speeches, “Thank you Iowa. You know they said they said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose but on this January night this defining moment in history. You have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”
Listen to it. As a speech, it’s simple. It’s rhythmic. It’s like a song. As an audience member, you find yourself leaning in and urging him to bring more. The power of rhythm!
Okay, let’s peel the layers on this a little more.
How do we bring this powerful force into our own communication style?
I’m going to share two very easy to execute tools with you, and when you put them in place, you will start creating a cadence, a rhythm, that connects you to your audience.
First, we develop the Law of Three.
This Law of Three comes directly from the world of music, as many speaking tools do. The three-beat measure is well-ingrained in our daily lives and we see it and are exposed to it so much that we have normalised it.
Look how easy the three-beat measure rolls off the tongue…
– Wine, women, and song
– Butcher, baker, and candlestick maker
– Tall, dark, and handsome
– Hook, line, and sinker
– Hop, skip, and a jump
– Beg, borrow, and steal
– Signed, sealed, and delivered
Those of us who have ever sat down to play an instrument knows that all music is built around a triad of notes. This is always the core. Every song has this foundation and it shapes and develops from that point.
Applying the same concept to speechwriting, The Law of Three… three words or three phrases used together to increase memorability and impact with a rhythmic 1-2-3 beat.
Let me give you an example. I want to establish a rhythm that gets your spirit and mind moving with me.
A platform master shares ideas with impact, insight, and intensity. They engage listeners with courage, conviction, and confidence.
A platform master delivers their point of view confidently, cogently and convincingly. They sew their thoughts with the threads of innovation, inspiration, and imagination.
A platform master enriches, enlightens and entertains their audience. They strive for compatibility, capability, and credibility.
Another great platform master was the late Steve Jobs. In fact, in our Mentorship Programme, we ask them to study his “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” Commencement Speech delivered to the graduates of Stanford University on June 12, 2005. (Click the link to watch the YouTube video.)
In this speech, he created a conversational style, reinforced by a simple 1-2-3 structure.
He uses the rhythm of the Law of Three to guide the audience through the fourteen minutes.“Today I want to tell you three stories“ then he goes into the first one, “The first story is about connecting the dots“ then, moves the audience into “My second story is about love and loss.“ His third story, “Is about death“ he said. Simple. Clean. Rhythm.
His rhythm is emphasised with pauses that would make a lot of people uncomfortable. For example, he closes his first story with a reference to Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken by saying, “Even when it leads you off the well-worn path… and that will make all the difference.”
Then, he pauses a full six seconds. Count them with me… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… what a great tool.
The use of an effective pause only enhances the cadence, the rhythm, the flow.
Here are some examples from his speech. I’ll give you the time code so you can click the link and watch it yourself and see what I mean.
Timecode: (3:39) “I learned  about serif and san serif typefaces,  about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations,  about what makes great typography great.”
Timecode: (3:47) “It was  beautiful,  historical,  artistically subtle…”
Timecode: (7:16) “…  started a company named NeXT,  another company named Pixar,  and fell in love…”
Timecode: (9:33) “ all external expectations,  all pride,  all fear”
Timecode: (10:28) “ It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months.  It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family.  It means to say your goodbyes.”
Timecode: (12:18) “…  don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
Can you see how powerful the use of the triad is in establishing a cadence, a rhythm to your messag
Let’s explore one more effective tool for creating rhythm and that is the use of rhyme.
Rhyme is a proven method of building a rhythm as every cheerleader, poet, and songwriter know. Effective speechwriters use rhyme in a sequence, like a cadence, to generate a sense of momentum for a message.
For example, I delivered a speech once that was titled, ‘Winning is An Inside Job’ and in the closing, I wanted to build momentum towards what I described as the 10 Most Powerful Words In The English Language.
Here’s how I set it up…
Let me close with a challenge for you to take with you. This challenge will change your life. This challenge will blow the unnecessary from your radar.
“Let me close with this. Here’s what I do know so far,
Here’s what I do know so far,
Architects cannot renovate it.
Businesses cannot incorporate it.
Developers cannot innovate it.”
“Engineers cannot calculate it.
Governments cannot legislate it.
Lawyers cannot litigate it.”
“Manufacturers cannot fabricate it.
Politicians cannot appropriate it.
Scientist cannot formulate it.”
Only you can orchestrate it!
Here they are, the ten most powerful two-letter words in the English language. And when I say them, I am finished.
If it is to be it is up to me.”
Being true to my promise… I raised my hand, waved to the audience, turned and walked away.
Rhyme builds rhythm and momentum. It increases memorability. It opens the door for creating a Rallying Cry or a Slogan. It embeds itself into the mind of the audience.
Here’s your action point of the day.
Study the speeches I’ve talked about in this episode today. As you watch or listen, be attuned for the Rhythm, the Law of Three and the Rhyme. Model some of your own message development after their structure and style.
Take notes and model some of your own message development on what you see and hear. Examine their structure and style.
Here’s my challenge to you… yes, I’m sure you know what’s coming…
Do you have the ambition of being a Platform Master? Then I challenge you to print this out and keep it in front of you for 30 days. Keep it in your diary, your notebook, the dashboard of your car, your mirror in the bathroom… wherever you can to continually remind yourself that…
Then I challenge you to put the 10 Most Powerful Words In The English Language in front of you for 30 days.
Keep it in your diary, in your notebook, on the dashboard of your car. Tape it on your mirror in the bathroom… put it wherever you can, to continually remind yourself that…