Don't Aim for Just a Great Speech. Set the Room on Fire
Every idea is an incitement... Eloquence may set fire to reason.
--Oliver Wendell Holmes
Do you struggle to express emotion? Are you strong on the facts but weak on communicating values, vision, and inspiration? Is your voice less expressive than you'd like? Are you laid low by an excess of bullet points? Do you find it hard to tell personal stories? Do you dismiss the need for eloquence, and take pride in being reasonable?
Gram Parsons, an extremely influential musical artist credited with helping to found country rock, was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and pianist. He played with the Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Emmylou Harris. Rolling Stone ranks him 87th in a list of their top 100 artists of all time.
Despite this record of success, recreational drug use shortened his life: he died on September 19th, 1973 at the age of 26 (in Room #8 at the Joshua Tree Inn).
When his friends stole his body from the LA airport, drove it to Joshua Tree National Park, poured five gallons of gasoline into his open coffin, and lit it with a match, they fulfilled his dying wish to be cremated in the desert. The police gave chase but, according to one report, were unable to keep up because they were "encumbered by sobriety."
How might you be encumbered by sobriety as a speaker, outdone by more dynamic souls who speak with passion or humor, who light the room on fire or set the table on a roar?
Reason is great, but eloquence is better. Eloquence is reason set on fire.