If a leader has no feelings to share, why go there?

I’m probably about to jump the shark. I’m emotional, OK? Still drying my eyes—and my shirt—from this heartbreaking speech (and song) by a soldier dying of cancer.

But I’ve wanted to put this idea out there for discussion for years now, and so I’m going to do it:

A speech that doesn’t move people emotionally—the doing of which requires the courageous sharing of emotion on behalf of the speaker—should not be a speech.

It should be an op/ed piece, a white paper, a blog post or a memo—anything but a speech, which is a preposterously inefficient way to get ideas across, requiring everyone involved to travel to the same place at the same time and sit through the whole damn thing whether they find it compelling or not.

Ceremony and tradition and status-seeking aside—and I realize those are stubborn fellows to get to move aside—the only legitimate reason to hold an event as inconvenient and expensive as a speech is to let a leader look the people in the eye and share something from his or her very soul. The emotion shared doesn’t have to be sadness, doesn’t have to be love, doesn’t have to be compassion. Can just be confidence or hope or even plain happiness.

It’s good to share ideas in a speech, too. But there are so many cheaper, quicker, easier ways to share those these days. And the audience knows it, and wonders: Why did they bring me all the way here to tell me what I could have gotten out of a PowerPoint deck?

The oldest gag in the world is when the speaker puts his notes aside to in order to “speak from the heart.” With notes or without, I’m arguing that the heart is the only place from which anyone should ever speak. And a speech that doesn’t share feelings is a waste of everyone’s time.

Speechwriters, have I finally gone off the deep end?

Talk to me. —DM

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