The Six Purposes

Issue 008. By Patrick Thomas.

Welcome to The Story is the Strategy, a weekly newsletter about becoming a world-class business communicator. My mission is to help you become a remarkable storyteller and significantly increase your professional impact. Learn more here.

Ideas to Improve Your Business Storytelling

📚 The Non-Designer’s Design Book. In 2019, when you’re competing with smartphones and every distraction that the internet offers your audience, you will probably never give a speech or presentation without visual aids. Great visuals can’t save a bad story, but they do help focus attention and keep the audience engaged. I’m really enjoying this book. It demystifies the principles of good design with lots of practical examples. If you mostly read on Kindle like I do, get the hard copy and put it on your desk for easy reference:

🔗 John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address. To become a great communicator, study the great communicators. As an untested, youthful Senator taking the helm at the height of the Cold War, Kennedy knew he had to rouse and inspire the entire free world. And he did it - this surely ranks as one of the greatest speeches of all time. Read the transcript as you watch. It’s a rhetorical masterpiece. (Bonus: here’s a great simple analysis of the rhetorical techniques at work - scroll to page 11, the teacher’s copy :)

Put it to Work

The six purposes. I’ve written before about the importance of starting with the end in business communications; aka, having a clear idea of what outcome you want to achieve before you begin. Expanding on that idea, Richard Dowis believes there are only six basic purposes of a speech: to entertain, to inform, to inspire, to motivate, to advocate, to persuade. Most speeches (or memoes, or pitches, or whatever) will do more than one of these. Dowis suggests writing a statement of purpose before you begin. Here’s one example from his book:

This speech should be largely inspirational. It should stress the importance of education in our society. It will provide some startling facts [inform] about the declining level of excellence in American education. The speech will call for a change of attitude toward education [advocate] and urge a return to basic American values [motivate.]

I’m not sure I would do this for myself, but whenever I write for someone else, I’m definitely going to start. This type of exercise (which, I know, feels a little redundant and pointless) is why writing is great: it forces you to clarify your thinking. Better to do that at the start than after you’ve spent an hour on a draft.

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