One of our original guiding principles here at Ethos3 is John F. Kennedy’s oft-quoted gem: “The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.” We wholeheartedly believe that a great presentation, or a great speech, can truly change the world. The ultimate goal of any presentation, or act of public speaking, is to influence the audience: to inform, to persuade, to convince or to incite. You don’t have to change the entire world with your words. You’re simply responsible for changing the minds of those listening.  

In November 1961, John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th president of the United States. At 43 years old, he’s the youngest person ever to be voted into office. He delivered his famous Inauguration Address on January 20, 1961, a speech that is now considered one of the best speeches of all time. Much can be learned about public speaking from his Address, but one element that strikes us as particularly notable is his adherence to a single, compelling theme throughout. JFK was representative of a new generation, a new cohort of Americans taking the reigns in the post-war era in the United States. Kennedy himself embodied that change by exemplifying youth and optimism. And he was smart to focus on this new era full of promises and hope during his Inaugural Address, for his audience was motivated and inspired by its newly elected youthful president.

The second thing we should note about JFK’s Inaugural Address is that it was brief, clocking in at 13 minutes and 59 seconds, making it the fourth shortest Inaugural Address in history. Yet another piece of evidence showing the wealth of power that lies in brevity. Never use ten words when four will do. Never ramble when you can be concise. Find the simplest, most direct way of saying what you want to say. Your audience is much liklier to remember your words if you deliver them in a simple, memorable way.

Lastly, perhaps the most famous line in JFK’s Inaugural Address is a simple call to action. You know it: “Ask not what your country can do for you- Ask what you can do for your country.” It’s absolutely imperative to include a compelling call to action in your presentation. An effective call to action should tell your audience how they can change their lives based on the information you’ve just given them. It should give them instruction; it should tell them what they should do next. A presentation without a call to action is like a sundae without a cherry on top: there’s something missing without it. Spend some time making your call to action powerful and motivational, so that your audience will leave with it stuck in their minds.

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