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Taking the Oath of Eloquence

Yesterday, President Bush delivered his second inaugural address. Regardless of your political views, you can learn effective sharing techniques by listening to politicians--after all, they have teams of speechwriters helping them. And while the president's advisors surely helped him prepare yesterday's remarks, by examining the choice of language, we can learn some handy techniques for sharing our own visions.

Emphasize Common Values An inspiring vision embodies values with strong appeal to its entire audience. The vision then calls attention to those common values and illustrates how--and why--all individuals can connect. While acknowledging the country's political division, Bush reminded Americans that our core values--democracy, liberty, and freedom--still unite us. "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one," he said. He added, "These questions that judge us also unite us, because Americans of every party and background, Americans by choice and by birth, are bound to one another in the cause of freedom."

Describe the Importance of the Values Explaining why your values are important helps people connect emotionally to your vision. Visions with the greatest impact depict the status quo as intolerable and alternative values as unacceptable. And stressing a problem"s seriousness and the urgency for change can portray your vision as the only suitable approach. Speaking of an enemy that promotes fear, repression, and terror, the president said, "America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies." He stressed, "We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people."

Disparage the Vision's Opponents To add emotional energy when describing your vision, you can point out the conflicting behaviors of your competitors, critics, or adversaries. Typecasting your opponents as lacking those values your organization deems important helps underscore your vision's significance, creates passion and competition, and fosters commitment. The president referred to terrorists with ideologies "that feed hatred and excuse murder," and said the "force of human freedom" can "break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant."

Forecast Success Predicting the successful realization of your vision builds employee confidence in your leadership. Alluding to accomplishments helps to confirm the likelihood of this vision's success. Bush said, "We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom...Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation," but because "freedom is the permanent hope of mankind." He said, "By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal."

Select Emotional Language The right language is critical to creating an emotional impact. Symbolic words enhance your vision's meaning. Metaphors and analogies help clarify your vision while stimulating the listener's imagination. Repetition adds a mesmerizing rhythm to the message, making it unforgettable. Choosing effective rhetorical techniques makes your vision meaningful and memorable. Bush chose metaphors including "shipwreck of communism," "when the soul of a nation finally speaks," and "we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time." He used repetition when he said America speaks anew to the world: "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know...Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know...The rulers of outlaw regimes can know...The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know...And all the allies of the United States can know…"

Too many business leaders lack the essential ability to articulate the big picture to their workforce. Therefore, their messages are devoid of emotion, energy, excitement, and any mention of values. Master these techniques and you'll separate yourself from other leaders.
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