By Jeff Beals
We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon.
Those words were spoken by President Ronald Reagan on June 6, 1984 at Pointe du Hoc, the rocky cliff along the Normandy coast where allied soldiers four decades earlier had invaded Nazi-occupied France. Reagan and several other world leaders were there marking the 40th anniversary of what we call “D-Day,” one of the most important moments in world history.
Whether you loved him, hated him or were somewhat ambivalent, there’s no denying Reagan’s ability to give a great speech. He wasn’t nicknamed “The Greater Communicator” by accident. And among his many speeches, Normandy was one of the best.
Reagan closed with these emotive words:
Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.” Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.
Given the setting, the anniversary and the skillfully delivered message, it was an overwhelmingly emotional moment. Barely a single dry eye could be found, and some attendees were actually sobbing.
Many in the audience or watching clips on television were amazed that Reagan was able to complete the speech without choking up or becoming overcome with emotion. One such incredulous person was Reagan’s own vice president, George H.W. Bush, a man with a reputation for choking up at emotional events.
Back in Washington a week or two later, Bush brought up the speech during his weekly lunch meeting with Reagan. Bush asked the president the secret to his composure at the podium.
“I say it over and over again,” Reagan said, admitting that he rehearsed the entire speech nearly 30 times before delivering it publicly.
As the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.”
If even the Great Communicator needed to practice, certainly the rest of us do too.
While there is a risk of over-practicing, causing you to sound cold and robotic, many of us (myself included) are more likely to skimp on the practice.
Whether you are about to give a speech, deliver a sales presentation or solve a conflict among a group of employees, you will surely benefit from “saying it over and over” before you enter the venue. As you practice, you will become comfortable with the material, allowing you to focus on the finer points of your delivery not the least of which is composure.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 637-9300.
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