Bring the Future to Life When You Speak
On September 12, 1962, President John F Kennedy stood before 35,000 people at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas, and presented a seemingly impossible vision to the nation:
“…If I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun – almost as hot as it is here today – and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out… then we must be bold.”
What President Kennedy employed that day is one of the most effective ‘sales’ tools to use when you speak – the ‘Future Story.’ This is a type of story that paints the picture of a future that is so compelling that people want to experience it – no matter the cost.
Although well-told stories of any type can compel people to action, when you speak about the past, your job is easier than talking about a yet-to-be-experienced future. As Madelyn Blair’ wrote in her paper paper The Story of the Future, Told in a Day: “The process of creating Future Stories becomes a container within which participants feel inspired to explore new ideas to contribute to the future. They begin by exploring what is available from the present that can be used to build the future. In other words, Future Stories are grounded in the reality of today. The descriptions of the future that the stories explore must reflect the here-and-now, rather than be a vision that is unattainable.”
How can you effectively use the Future Story when you speak? Use specific and emotional language. Notice how President Kennedy created detailed pictures in his vision:
“…the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston…” (as opposed to “the moon, far, far away from the control station”)
“…a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field…” (as opposed to “a huge rocket”)
“…at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun…” (as opposed to “at very fast speeds, and very, very hot temperatures”)
He also painted a picture of events which have not yet occurred:
“…new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented…”
“…capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced…”
“…do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out…”
When combined, these images excited and challenged the country to work together for a goal which had never-before been experienced. President Kennedy had the gift to galvanize large numbers of people when he would speak.
You may not be given the task of moving a nation to pursue a great, national goal, but you may be challenged to persuade others to buy a service, product or idea. Utilize the Future Story, and you can move people to share your vision.
To see the full video of President Kennedy’s speech at Rice University, click here.
What are your experiences with speakers who paint a vivid picture of the future? You’re invited to leave your thoughts below:
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