So don’t get me wrong, I love Toastmasters. It’s a great organization and I’ve been a member since forever. However, it’s not perfect. They’ll do a great job of teaching you HOW to give a speech, but they won’t help you to do a better job at WHAT you say. That is where tag lines come in…
Learning From Politicians
Whenever we start to talk about people who give really good speeches, we always seem to get around to talking about politicians. For some reason, despite how we may feel about them and their chosen profession, we acknowledge that they are more often than not, really good speakers.
I guess if we’d like to become better speakers, then we’d better see if we can become more like politicians. What this means is that we’re going to have to find out what they are doing right and start to do a better job of copying them.
I can tell you one of the things that they do much better than most speakers (and something that Toastmasters will never tell you about) is that they have learned the fine art of using tag lines. Since it seems to be working so well for them, perhaps it’s time for you and I to spend some time studying what they are doing.
So just what is this “tag line” thing? A good working definition is that a tag line is a short phrase or sentence that is both memorable and catchy and which does a good job of capturing what a brand stands for. Yep, that’s right – we’re talking about marketing here.
Why Use Your Own Tag Lines
Every time we give a speech we’re selling something. It may be ourselves (that’s what politicians do) or it may be an idea or a way of doing something. If we want to have any hope of getting our message across, then we’re going to have to find a way to make our audience remember what we’ve said.
I really don’t care if you have great stage presence. Or if you know when to use pauses. Or even if you know how to use hand gestures at just the right time. Nope, none of this is going to help your audience remember what you said after you finish speaking.
Instead, you’re going to have to find a way to get it to really stick in their brain. There are a lot of different ways to do this, but coming up with a tag line that works is one of the most powerful.
If you don’t believe me, then I just want you to remember when you first hear the phrase “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” (said by President Ronald Reagan on June 12, 1987).
How To Create Tag Lines
So if I’ve convinced you that you need to find a way to work more tag lines into your next speech so that it will become more memorable, then we’re half-way there. Now we’ve got to find a way for you to come up with the words that will enter your audience’s brains and not leave.
One of the most important characteristics of a tag line is that it’s really, really short. This means that it must imply a great deal more than it actually says. The Home Depot tag line of “You can do it, we can help” is a great example of this.
In addition this, a tag line must come across as being very friendly. It needs to seem like something that a friend would say to you, not a public speaker whom you don’t know. Once again, a good example of this is Allstate’s “Your in good hands with Allstate” tag line.
What All Of This Means For You
As much as a speaker may work to prepare a perfect speech, it will all be for naught if after they are done, nobody can remember what they said. What this means is that as public speakers we need to find a way to get our words to stick with our audiences.
Taking the lead from politicians, we need to start to use more tag lines when we speak. These are the short phrases that our audience will find impossible to forget. When we sit down to craft these phrases, we need to keep them short and make them appear to be something that a friend would tell to our audience.
We may look down on politicians who use tag lines in order to make it on the local 10 o’clock news. However, considering that these are the people who seem to get reelected over and over again, perhaps we should take a lesson from them and start creating our own speaking tag lines…
Question For You: How many tag lines do you think a speaker should work into a speech? How many is too many?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
As though speaking in public isn’t tricky enough, then there is the roast. When we are asked to put on a roast for someone we find ourselves walking directly into a social minefield from which there appears to be no way out. If we do a poor job, then the audience will be bored and will end up hating you. If you do too good of a job, the object of the roast will become angry and will end up hating you. What’s a speaker to do?