Speakers: Stop quoting dead people and look alive!
August 13, 2009
I think I struck a blow for civilization last week, or at least blocked one against it.
A guy writes to Vital Speeches hoping we’ll help him hawk his book, Your Daily Shakespeare—an Arsenal of Verbal Weapons to Drive Your Friends into Action and your Enemies into Despair.
Among the book’s attributes that he lists: “It is a collection of over 10,000 (ten thousand) daily situations connected to a befitting Shakespearean quotation. … It is a fertile and inexhaustible resource for any public speaker. … The tome has 1400 pages, double column, small font and it weighs 3.5 lbs.”
I was feeling crusty.
I replied: “I must say that I do not think your book is of interest to me or my readers. Call us hayseeds, but we try to avoid being dismissed as windbags who lean on Shakespeare quotations like drunkards to lampposts. It’s bad enough when people who actually read Shakespeare quote him frequently. Coming from those who would rely on a resource like the one you have created must be insufferable! … [W]hat good could you possibly hope to do with this resource? And what social harm are you willing to risk in return?”
Of course he wrote me back, quoting King Lear, King Henry IV, All’s Well that Ends Well, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
The whole thing reminds me of speechwriting guru Jerry Tarver’s noble rule against quoting Alexis de Tocqueville in business speeches: “No Quote de Tocque.”
Speakers, quit quoting dead people and say something interesting yourself for once.