What Can Wall Street Teach You About Your Speech

Recently, I watched one of the most classic scenes in cinematic history, the Greed is Good speech from corporate raider Gordon Gekko (played in an Oscar-winning performance by Michael Douglas) in the movie ‘Wall Street.’

This scene has legions of fans and detractors because of the inflammatory nature of the word ‘greed.’ For the purpose of this blog, suspend your interpretation of the word. Focus on the lesson you can learn from the structure of the speech.

It is a masterful piece of writing, and is brilliantly delivered by Mr. Douglas.

A Classic Speech That Touches Emotions

The speech opens with Gekko immediately addressing the problem faced by shareholders of Teldar Paper, which is facing financial ruin:

Effective structure in speaking and storytellingAmerica has become a second-rate power.  It’s trade and fiscal deficits are at nightmare proportions.” 

 “Teldar has 33 different vice presidents, each earning over $200 thousand dollars a year.”

  “…our paper company lost $110 million last year.”

He sums up this problem and transition to his next point:

“In my book, you either do it right or get eliminated.”

He then offers his credentials as a potential new leader of the company:

“In the last seven deals I’ve been involved in, there were 2.5 million stockholders who have made a pre-tax profit of  $12  billion .”

 “I am not a destroyer of companies.  I am a liberator of them.”

A Biblical Writing Tool That Drives Home Your Point

With his foundation laid, he uses a technique called anaphora (repetition of the same word in successive sentences) to reach a climax, which is an attempt to change the point of view of the audience. He paints a picture of what could be:

“Greed – for lack of a better term – is good.

Greed is right.

Greed works.

Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.

Greed for money, for love, for knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind.

Greed will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”

His closing line is meant to appeal to the audience on a personal and nationalistic note.

The answer to the question “Is greed good?” is not the purpose of this post. Set aside the morality of the message, and use this speech as a template.  It allows you to jump into a presentation that defines a problem and offers evidence to support your claim.

Then, you transition into your qualifications and how you can solve that problem.

Finally, close with a reminder of the benefits the audience will receive from your solution.

This speech structure may not win you an Academy Award, but it will increase your chances of Standing OUT!

To view this classic scene, click here.


Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder

Ostensibly, this book was written for screenwriters, but Mr. Snyder shares ideas on how to create a connection between characters and audience members. The title is born from the idea that if your character does something nice in the beginning of the story, such as rescuing a cat from a tree, it builds likability for that person. It’s what Patricia Fripp calls a “rooting interest.”

To get your copy, visit: http://amzn.to/XQ6B2x.


Keep Audience Interest With This Simple Speech Structure ultima modifica: 2014-12-18T09:23:51-05:00 da Michael Davis