When we think of slogans, we probably think of advertising campaigns and the marketing world. But slogans also belong to the world of public speaking and presentations.
Arguably the most famous repetitive slogan in a speech is “I have a dream,” from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech of the same name. The Greeks called this repetitive phrasing at the beginning of sentences, anaphora. And it’s one of the oldest and most powerful literary forms.
But you can’t just repeat a phrase or create parallel structure in your presentation and expect it to work. There’s more going on behind the scenes. So when it comes to developing a speech slogan, let’s borrow insight from the marketing world. This field says that recall, likeability, and brand compatibility are what matter.
Recall is the ability to remember and repeat something. I often pose this question to my students: At the end of your message, what would the audience say your speech was about? If you’ve developed a good slogan, most of the audience could answer easily using the same or similar vocabulary. If you have chosen a slogan that is both creative and easy to understand, and if you’ve repeated it several times during the course of your presentation, the audience will remember it.
Besides being able to recall your slogan, the audience should like it. Research shows that likeability might come down to three factors: creativity, clarity of the message, and the inclusion of a benefit. That’s why participants in the study remembered slogans like: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” and “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Both of these slogans demonstrate a clear and creative message. But the message also benefits the audience in some way. One of the most likeable examples of a speech slogan I’ve heard came from a freshman student in one of my classes. In giving a persuasive speech encouraging college students to stop using their phones so much, she came up with the following slogan: “it’s time to look up again.” It had all the elements of a likeable catchphrase: clarity, creativity, and value for the audience.
Besides being easily recalled and likeable, it’s important that your slogan is consistent with the tone you are trying to set or the image you want to portray. In marketing, it has to match the brand. Your slogan is not meant to stand alone. It is part of your brand identity as a speaker or as a speaker who is representing a company. As is the case with King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, the slogan isn’t just about that one message, it’s consistent with the brand message of King’s mission and identity. Take some time to list what it is that you want your audience to think, feel, and know at the end of your presentation. Then create a slogan that captures all of those things.
When creating content for your next presentation, consider incorporating a slogan that is easy to recall, likeable, and consistent with your larger message and brand. When the rest of the content fades, as it so often and too quickly does, this slogan will stick with your listeners.
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