Speechwriters have always hoped their speeches resonated with the audience—that there was an effect that lasted longer than the applause.
Now speechwriters ought to be thinking: Viral!
Judging by this pretty dumb valedictorian speech “song” that’s garnered almost a quarter of a million views, writing a viral speech may not be as hard as you think.
Apparently all you have to do is flout convention stylistically.
Or substantively, as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg did with her provocative commencement address at Barnard College, titled, “The Women of My Generation Blew It, So Equality Is Up to You, Graduates.”
I had that speech sent to me by several separate people, none of whom were at Barnard College commencement exercises. How did they hear about the speech? Social media, man. Only a few days after the speech was given and posted on Facebook, it had been “liked” by 10,000 people and commented upon by 1,800.
Obviously a speechwriter can’t simply decide to write a “viral speech”; there’s some dumb luck involved when anything goes viral. But a speechwriter who is at least mindful of the possibility, is writing unconventional speeches, giving them attention-grabbing titles, filming them and posting them on YouTube and exposing them to various other audiences via other social media means.
Most speeches won’t go viral, and many shouldn’t. But are you giving your best speeches a chance? —DM