Can a speech make a difference?

Many public speakers starting to draft a keynote speech often begin with a simple wish:

That the speech they deliver will be “memorable.”

Memorable is fine, I suppose, if the speech itself is good. (But if the speech is bad, that’s memorable too – but for all the wrong reasons.)

And so I ask:

Is being “memorable” really the goal for a keynote speech?

Can a speech do more than that – in fact: much more than that?

Can a speech make a difference?

Several months ago, I received an urgent message from an accomplished executive who was beginning to speak in public more frequently.

Her plea was clear:

I have a major speech two months from now for an organization I really care about.

I really need to knock it out of the park!

I see that you help people tell stories that inspire action and lead change, which is exactly what I need.

Can we chat?

We did chat.

For about an hour.

She went on to share with me her story, her background and her two goals for the speech:

“(I want to) open eyes,” she said. And “motivate to advocate” for some life-changing state legislation.

Translated, this speaker’s goals were the same goals that every speaker should always have:

To not only change how the audience thinks (“open eyes,” as she said) but also change how they behave (“motivate to advocate,” in her case). 

To this speaker?

Anything less would NOT be a win!

She wanted her speech to make a difference.

But can a speech make a difference?

For the next two months, we collaborated to make it so.

I met her right where she was – (“mostly thoughts in my head,” she admitted upfront) – and together, we dug deeply.

I read her new book.

Challenged her assumptions.

Asked questions.

(So many questions!)

And then – 74 pages of interview notes later – I presented her the framework for her keynote speech.

Next, a couple of drafts. And the final manuscript.

By then she was ready – eager! – to start practicing.

So she rehearsed – and I coached.

And she rehearsed some more – and I coached a bit more.

Finally the day arrived – the big event! – and she was READY.

Soon she would know:

  • Can a speech “open eyes”?
  • Can a speech “motivate to advocate”?
  • Can a speech make a difference?

Later that evening after the event was over, she messaged me:

It’s 11:45, and I’m finally back in my hotel room.

The evening was a COMPLETE success.

The speech went really well.

In terms of delivery, I probably stumbled only on two or three words.

But it didn’t make much difference.

My board told me that the audience was completely engaged the whole time.

Afterwards, more than a dozen people (like maybe 15) came up and thanked me for the message and said, “good job.”

The Lieutenant Governor said I knocked it out of the park.

The state Attorney General said it was a great job.

The House Speaker said he wants to meet to discuss how he can support the bill.

It was a great night!!!

After only a few hours, her speech had ALREADY begun to make a difference, and I was thrilled for her!

Because THAT is what a speech is supposed to do.

But it didn’t stop there.

A few weeks later, the speaker messaged me again:

That speech set a tone for lots of good conversations in the State Capitol in the last five weeks.

When I delivered that speech, the state Attorney General was on my left, maybe 3 or 4 feet away … the Speaker of the House was (close by).

I met with them both in January to follow up.

This is such a crazy adventure!

I have five bills that will hopefully go to Committees this month, then hearings, then to the Senate floor for voting, then to the House for hearings and voting.

I’ll let you know what happens!

Can a speech make a difference?

Last month, I received another message from the speaker – this time with several documents attached:

I’m happy to share this information with you on the three bills we got passed in the state!

The PDFs are the bills themselves.

The Word docs are testimony I gave in front of legislative committees to explain why the bills were/are needed.

It was good to talk with you this morning!

She called me immediately to share her good news because she was clearly over the moon!

And yes:

All this activity – all these RESULTS! – emanated from a single keynote speech.

So can a speech make a difference?

Unequivocally, the answer is YES!

IF the speech is carefully, intentionally crafted with these two goals in mind:

To not only change how the audience THINKS – but also BEHAVES.

That said?

Here are the two most important questions for YOU to consider right now:

  • Will YOUR next speech go beyond just being “memorable”?
  • Will YOUR next speech make a difference?
If you want your keynote speech to change how your audience thinks and behaves, work with Teresa Zumwald: an award-winning speechwriter and executive speech coach. Contact us today!