March 21, 2007

How To Write and Deliver a Dynamite Speech – Part One

How to Write and Deliver a Dynamite Speech – Step One: Define Your Core Message
© by Doug Stevenson

A dynamite speech is built upon a strong foundation of form and structure. I call this the architecture of the speech. Without the proper form and structure – the right elements organized in the right
order – your speech may collapse in on you while you’re standing there in front of your audience.
Maybe that’s already happened to you and you don’t want it to happen again.

Step One of the 21 Steps of the Dynamite Speech System is Define Your Core Message. Before you start choosing stories and making PowerPoint slides, you have to have a clear purpose, a distinct point of focus that keeps you on track and makes it easy for your audience to follow you. I call this point of focus your core message.  Just for clarification, the terms “core message” and “main point” are interchangeable. Your core message is your main point.

Here’s the first question you need to ask yourself when defining your core message: what’s the one thing I want my audience members to know or do? The most important thing. Not three or four or seven things. One thing. How do I want them to act differently or think differently? Core messages are designed to get people to act or think differently. They’re simple, clear and concise.

Consider the challenge that’s facing your listener. What’s their pain? Where are they hurting?

Your core message provides a solution to that challenge, a prescription to ease their pain. That solution takes the form of a suggested change in behavior, or a suggested change in their thought process. A change in behavior might be something like, “If you want to increase your sales, increase your follow through.”  Increasing your follow through is the change in behavior. A change in thought process might be, “If you want to increase your sales, elevate your attitude.”  Elevating your attitude is a change in thought process – a change in one’s frame of mind.

Here’s an analogy for your core message. Think of it as a major highway with entrance and exit ramps every few miles. Your core message is that major highway and all of your sub-points and supporting information are connected to that highway by entrance and exit ramps.  That means that everything you say is logically connected to your core message. Nothing that you talk about, and none of the points that you make, can ever go off on a tangent. That would be like exiting the highway where there’s an exit ramp, but not having an entrance ramp to get back on. In a dynamite speech,
you can get off the highway – your core message – to make a supporting point, but you have to be able to tie that point back to your core message, and get back on the highway.

When you create your speech with a solid core message, the whole speech flows like you are traveling across the country on a major highway. It’s easy to follow because there’s no wasted energy, no stop lights, no railroad crossings, no senseless diversions, and no dead ends. Every story, every slide, every chart and graph, supports your core message. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for fun or humor. It just means that it all fits. Every choice is strategic and keeps you moving down the highway – in service of your core message.

A good core message is uplifting, challenging and proactive. It’s a call to action. A core message must also be specific, motivating and morally correct. It should be something that resonates with people in a positive way and challenges them. It should call them to a higher standard of thought and action and, in my opinion, it should push people’s buttons a little bit. It should make people who aren’t living up to their highest potential uncomfortable, and people who are living up to their highest potential renew their commitment to excellence.

In my experience, people get complacent. They get comfortable in their little comfort zones and need people like you to challenge them, in a forceful but tactful and creative way, to expand their experience. That means that you and I are tasked with creating a little controversy or friction, by telling people what they need to hear, not what we think they want to hear. We need to be a little dangerous because, as a speaker, safe is a very dangerous place to be.  A safe speaker is predictable, and often boring.

Think about it. Think about the speakers who have moved you, who have motivated you to do something differently. The odds are, they pushed your buttons. They said things that were a little uncomfortable to hear. They probably did it in a professional and compassionate manner, but they got under your skin. They took a chance and told the truth.  They were dangerous.

Here are some examples of core messages that are a little provocative – a little dangerous.   Let’s say you’re giving a motivational talk. Your core message might be a quote. Here’s a quote from Earl Nightingale, the founder of the Nightingale-Conant Corporation. He said, “We become what we think about all day long.”

That could be a core message that you keep referring back to throughout your speech, challenging your audience to consider what it is that they think about that has created who they are today.

How about leadership?  Let’s go back to the basic criteria. What do you want your audience members to do differently, or how do you want them to think differently? How about, “Be the leader people want to follow.”  What do you think?  Be the leader people want to follow.  It poses a paradigm shift from the traditional role of being a leader that people have to follow.

Here’s a customer service core message, when the company you’re speaking to is dealing with a lot of angry customers and they want to improve their customer satisfaction ratings. “Courtesy conquers anger.”  This core message is very simple, yet it opens up a lot of room for exploration about customer service and the role courtesy plays.

Remember, the core message is like a major highway. It keeps you on track and guides all of the choices you’ll make as you build your dynamite speech. It is the one message you’ll keep referring back to throughout your speech. As you choose your speech elements, it is the foundation upon which all of your supporting points are built. 

If you take the time up front to define your core message, you’ll be well on your way to writing and delivering a dynamite speech. 

The How To Write and Deliver a Dynamite Speech System is available for purchase at

 It is a 10 CD audio learning system with an 80 page follow along workbook.

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