Public Speaking Guide: Tips from Churchill

In the week leading up to his death, Winston Churchill had a series of public speeches about life in wartime. These addresses became known as The Iron Curtain Speech and are loved for their insight into how humanity could survive war under extreme conditions. Here is advice from this great man on ensuring your survival when speaking before an audience

Winston Churchill gave a wonderful speech in the wake of World War II. Many people have gone on to say he was one of the most influential leaders ever and this is now known as ‘The Iron Curtain Speech’.

The “art of manliness public speaking” is a guide that can help you become more comfortable with public speaking. It includes tips from Churchill.

“Of all the gifts bestowed upon mankind, none is more valuable than oratory.” Its possessor holds a power greater than that of a great monarch. In the world, he is an autonomous power. –William S. Churchill

If you ask anybody to identify the greatest orators of all time, Winston Churchill will undoubtedly be towards the top of the list, if not the top.

We remember Winston Churchill guiding his fellow Englishmen through the worst days of WWII, inspiring them to “battle on the beaches” and contribute their “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” to beat the enemy. We see him standing in front of the House of Commons, his bulldoggish visage beaming, hailing the RAF’s “finest hour” and emphatically proclaiming, “Never in the sphere of human strife was so much due by so few to so few.”

Churchill’s public speaking ability seems to be superhuman – unachievable by the common man.

His position in the pantheon of orators, however, was not predetermined. He stuttered and stammered as a child, talked with a lisp, and had a bashful and timid demeanor that earned him little respect from his classmates, much alone a country.

There can be no question that he was born with a gift for language. But he had to work tirelessly to bring that latent potential to life. Winston declared it his “sole aim to be master of the spoken word” as a young man, and he cultivated his skills the same way he refined any other talent – via regular nurturing and practice.

When he initially joined politics in his twenties, his speeches were praised for their young preparedness. Yet he had a long way to go; one critic described his eloquence as “scholarly and weak,” while another said that “Mr. Churchill and oratory are not yet neighbors.” They aren’t now, and I don’t believe they will be in the future.” Winston continued to hone his technique throughout his life, and he evolved from a weedy young child into an orator whose arrival would silence an audience and cause listeners to lean forward in their seats and towards their radios in anticipation of his remarks.

Few, if any, of us will ever reach Winston Churchill’s level of oratory. Some individuals have “it,” a compelling, seductive characteristic in teaching and speaking that can’t be taught. Every guy, on the other hand, has the ability to improve and enhance his own innate gift. While we may not be called to speak to Parliament, we will all have opportunity to speak at some point in our lives. A flair for public speaking makes you a more compelling and powerful guy, whether you’re competing for student council president, giving a presentation at work, getting your views heard at a city council meeting, or giving a eulogy.

So keep the following advice from the English Bulldog in mind the next time you have to stand in front of a podium. Some of his methods were tailored to his personality and the period, but they are all excellent sources of direction and inspiration:

 

1. Make a list of what you want to say.

Winston churchill speaking notes.

Churchill gave a speech before the House of Commons in his typical fashion when he was 29 years old, early in his political career. He had remembered every word of his speeches up to that point and delivered them without notes. Until this point, everything had gone well.

He continues by saying, “And it lies with those who…” However, he becomes disoriented and loses his line of thought.

He repeats, “It lies with those who…” He fails to complete the phrase or pivot to a new one once again.

Churchill gropes furiously for his next phrase for three long, painful minutes and can’t seem to find it. The House scoffs at him. His face flushes. Finally, he sits down, his head buried in his hands in despair.

He vowed to himself that he would never make the same mistake again. He began writing down his talks word for word and keeping the material in front of him.

Improvisation is a really macho skill, but so is acknowledging a flaw. Churchill was humble enough to admit that he lacked the ability to speak on the spot. As a result, he worked around it to the point where most listeners didn’t know he was reading from notes.

Winston churchill glasses speaking.

Churchill achieved this appearance of spontaneity by filling his remarks with all the vigor, vitality, and naturalness of a spontaneous utterance. He had prepared his comments ahead of time, so he only had to peek over his script once or twice. And, according to his biographer William Manchester, he used a strategy to make even these looks unnoticeable:

“A superb performance, he would rise with two sets of spectacles in his waistcoat when acknowledged by the Speaker. He pretended to talk extemporaneously by perching the long-range pair on the point of his nose at an angle that allowed him to read his notes while creating the impression that he was gazing straight at the House. Even those who knew better believed that everything he said when he wasn’t quoting was spontaneous.” If the occasion called for quoting a document, he produced his second pair and changed his voice and manner so effectively that even those who knew better believed that everything he said when he wasn’t quoting was spontaneous.”

This was their finest hour paper.

In “psalm form,” the final wording of the “finest hour” speech.

He would put the text of his speeches in what his aides referred to as “psalm form” to help with the flow of delivery — a habit that may have been influenced by his love of the Old Testament. He would add delivery notes to these haiku-like blocks, such as where to stop and anticipate an applause; which words and letters to accentuate; and even when to pretend to fumble a little, grope for a word, and “correct” himself. Churchill understood that a faultless, robotic recitation would put his audience to sleep, and that the more genuine a speech seemed, the more tuned in his audience would be.

Winston churchill speaking on bbc radio.

Churchill never again behaved like the kind of orator he despised, who “does not know what they are going to say before they get up,” “does not know what they are saying while they are speaking,” and “does not know what they have said after they have sat down.”

 

2. Take Great Care When Crafting Your Speech

Winston churchill working at desk.

Churchill did not just write down his speech drafts and call it a day. He would spend 6-8 hours crafting a single 40-minute speech, which would be subject to multiple alterations.

Churchill’s sharp mind was always generating fresh lines to fit into his speeches, and he came up with them in the leisure times between his daily chores. Even his legendary witticisms and put-downs were seldom created on the scene; he would generally think of a quip ahead of time and store it away, ready to be retrieved and broadcast at the appropriate time.

Churchill dictated his ideas to his secretaries after they had marinated in his skull for a suitable period of time, frequently while pacing the room in his dressing gown or soaking in one of his two daily baths.

Finest hour first draft.

An early draft of Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech.

He’d then go through the original draft again, examining each phrase and deciding if the wording might be improved, or whether an adjective should be replaced for greater effect. Multiple drafts were created, each one crisper and tighter than the previous.

Churchill’s changes often lasted until he was virtually dashing out the door, late for another appearance in Parliament.

3. Select the Appropriate Words

Young winston churchill speaking.

“The good and accurate evaluation of words is a measure of a language’s knowledge. There is no more crucial aspect of rhetorical skill than the constant use of the greatest available term.” –WC

About 25,000 words make up the typical person’s vocabulary.

Churchill’s is believed to be worth $65,000.

Winston ingested reams of text thanks to his insatiable taste for literature, which he had developed as a young man. Despite his struggles in most areas at school, he discovered a passion, a talent, and a deep and lasting love for reading and writing English.

He read nearly 5,000 volumes in his lifetime, ranging from poetry and literature to history and science fiction. His incredible memory enabled him to recall whole portions from these books and repeat them word for word decades afterwards. His brain was like a fleshy version of Evernote, with countless notes on endless topics stuffed into its folds. He just delved into a file and brought out the required pith when he needed just the perfect story and exactly the right term to get his point through.

He didn’t think of his mind as a dusty, musty card catalog, however. Words enthralled and enthralled him. “Churchill’s sense for the English tongue was sensuous, even sexual; when he formed a term, he would suck it, rolling it about his palate to extract its full taste,” Manchester writes of his admiration for language’s melodic, magical characteristics. He like the feeling of words “fitting and dropping into their places like coins in the slot,” but he also loved to employ them with laser precision.

Churchill believed that the best word for a particular groove was the most plain and homely one available, arguing:

 

“The unreflective often believe that oratory’s impacts are achieved by the use of big words. What has been written will reveal the flaw in this concept. The older a language’s words are, the shorter they are. Their significance is more deeply rooted in the national character, and they have a stronger appeal.”

He stated “joined hands” instead of “decided to collaborate.” He stated “aircraft” and “airfield” instead of “aeroplane” and “aerodrome,” as was common at the time. Others used the term “prefabricated,” but he used the term “ready-made.” He also renamed the “Local Defense Volunteers” to the “Home Guard” when he initially assumed office as Prime Minister.

How about “hemoglobin, effort, lamentation, and perspiration” instead of “blood, toil, tears, and sweat”?

Doesn’t sound quite the same, does it?

Churchill despised not just too lengthy and flowery phrases, but also bureaucratic jargon and empty euphemisms. He mentioned “the poor” when other lawmakers said “the lower income category,” and “accommodation units” where others said “units.”

Though Churchill liked shorter, punchier phrases, he didn’t hesitate to use a longer, meatier term if he couldn’t “completely convey [his] ideas and sentiments.”

And if no existing term in the language adequately matched his intended meaning, he wasn’t averse to inventing one; the words “summit” (as a conference), “Middle East,” and “iron curtain” all have Churchill’s etymologies.

4. Use a captivating and musical rhythm in your speech.

Winston churchill passionate speaking.

“It is generally established that sound has a significant impact on the human brain. When the orator invokes his craft, his phrases become lengthy, rolling, and sonorous. The odd balance of the words creates a rhythm that is more akin to blank poetry than prose.” –WC

Churchill not only picked his words deliberately, but he also designed the impact and rhythm that resulted from placing those words, and then sentences, together. As a consequence, his remarks had a captivating cadence and rhythm, almost like music.

In addition to the standard techniques of an orator — a well-timed pause, tempo shifts — Churchill used a variety of additional methods to achieve this impact.

His goal was to constantly connect words in an appealing manner for the listener. Former Prime Minister Lloyd George condemned the term “at once outmoded and repulsive” when he said Mussolini’s actions were “at once antiquated and disgusting.” “Ah, the b’s in those words: ‘obsolete, deplorable,’” Churchill responded. Euphony is something you must pay attention to!”

Churchill apparently liked the effect of assembling “his adjectives in squads of four,” according to Manchester. Joe Chamberlain was “lively, brilliant, insurgent, obsessive,” whereas Bernard Montgomery was “austere, harsh, accomplished, relentless.”

Winston was known for his love of repetition and how it might build to a crescendo of emotional effect. Consider the following:

“You inquire as to what our goal is. In a single word, triumph, victory at all costs, victory in the face of all adversity, victory no matter how long or difficult the journey; because without victory, there is no survival.”

 

And:

“We will fight until the end, we will fight in France, we will fight on the seas and oceans, we will fight in the air with increasing confidence and strength, we will defend our island at any cost, we will fight on the beaches, we will fight on the landing grounds, we will fight in the fields and in the streets, we will never surrender.”

Churchill used chiasmus, which is a reversal of word order in two seemingly parallel statements, in a number of notable ways. “Now this is not the end,” he remarked in 1942, after the Allies won their first big victory of the war at El Alamein. This isn’t even the start of the end. But it’s possible that this is the end of the beginning.” Here are some more winning examples:

  • “I am prepared to meet my creator; whether my maker is prepared for the enormous agony of meeting me is a another matter.”
  • “We form our structures, and then our structures shape us.”
  • “Alcohol has stolen more from me than I have taken from it.”

Winston’s “mix of enormous flights of oratory with unexpected swoops into the personal and conversational,” according to ambassador Harold Nicholson, was “the winning formula” and “the one that never fails” of all of Churchill’s techniques.

Boris Johnson, author and London mayor, claims that Churchill’s “finest hour” speech is the greatest illustration of this stunning combination in his book The Churchill Factor. “Never in the sphere of human strife…” starts Winston, which Johnson describes as “a pretentious and usually Churchillian circumlocution for war.” From there, he smoothly transitions into “has so much been due by so many to so few” — a run of “brief Anglo-Saxon zingers,” as Johnson remarks.

Churchill’s speeches were known for their skilful swoops from the lofty to the down-to-earth; he addressed both the country’s well-educated nobles and its down-to-earth proletariat. His talks were equally capable of igniting the emotional imagination and challenging the intellect – there was certainly something for everyone.

5. Work your way to an unavoidable conclusion using your argument.

Winston churchill passionate speaking.

“A quick sequence of waves of sound and vivid imagery reaches the zenith of oratory.” The audience is enthralled by the ever-changing sights that are displayed to them. The flow of the words tickles their ear. The excitement grows. A number of facts are presented, all of which trend in the same direction. Before you reach the finish, you may see it. The audience is anticipating the climax, and the last words are met with thunderous applause.” –WC

The “accumulation of argument,” as Churchill put it, was the ideal oratorical flow articulated in the statement above.

It starts by emphasizing the most vital topic.

The audience will then be carried along as you offer several pieces of evidence one after another, seamlessly transitioning between them.

Compiling proof may often be as simple as repeating the same thing many times in slightly different ways. “Don’t attempt to be subtle or smart if you have an essential point to convey,” Churchill said. Make use of a pile driver. Once again, you’ve made your point. Then go back and press it one again. Then smack it a third time – a big one.”

 

Finally, you arrive to the thunderous, explosive finale, which leaves the audience with just one unavoidable conclusion.

Take, for example, the tense war cabinet discussions of May 26-28, 1940. France had been defeated. At best, England’s situation was precarious. Churchill had just recently taken over as Prime Minister, but his popularity was low and his job security was precarious. Italy started making overtures to the British, promising to assist them in negotiating a peace with Hitler. The Foreign Secretary, Viscount Halifax, believed that, given their vulnerable situation, it would be sensible to engage in negotiations.

Of course, Churchill was adamantly opposed to such a deal, claiming that “nations that went down fighting rose again, but those that surrendered tamely were destroyed.”

The dispute between Halifax and Churchill lasted several hours and spanned many sessions. Finally, Churchill requested a meeting with his “Outer Cabinet,” in the hopes of rallying further support for his stance. He presented his case before the 25-member board, concluding with:

“In the past several days, I’ve pondered whether it was appropriate for me to contemplate engaging in discussions with That Man [Hitler].” But it was folly to believe that if we sought to reach an agreement now, we would obtain better terms than if we battled it out afterwards. The Germans would want our fleet — disarmament — as well as our naval bases and other assets. We should become a slave state, with a British government established up to serve as Hitler’s stooge… And, at the end of it all, where should we be? On the other hand, we have vast resources and advantages at our disposal.

And I’m confident that if I even considered parley or submission for a second, everyone of you would rise up and tear me down from my perch. If this long island drama has to come to an end, let it come to an end only when each of us is choking on his own blood on the ground.”

That’s what I call a climax.

Twenty-five seasoned politicians burst out laughing and cheering, leaping from their chairs and patting Churchill on the back. Winston had triumphed. And the world’s future was permanently altered.

6. Make use of analogies and rich imagery

Winston churchill speech.

“Humans’ desire to expand their knowledge favors the assumption that the unknown is just an extension of the known: that the abstract and concrete are governed by the same principles: that the limited and infinite are homogenous. These disparate domains are linked or seem to be linked by an adequate parallel. It appeals to the listener’s common knowledge and urges him to solve difficulties that have stumped his reasoning abilities using the nursery and heart as a guide… Appropriate analogies have always had and continue to have a huge effect on the human mind. They are among the rhetorician’s most potent weapons, whether they are translating an established fact into plain language or daringly aim to unveil the unknown. The impact on even the most discerning audience is electrifying.” –WC

 

A speech that is only comprised of dry statistics and facts is neither entertaining nor memorable. The human mind yearns for its imagination to be sparked, and it rapidly clings onto images and analogies.

An analogy may cut through the jumbled and perplexing to provide a comprehensible towrope to comprehension. A rich metaphor may frequently result in a real a-ha moment, removing the veil from one’s eyes and allowing the listener to perceive things in a different light.

In his talks, Churchill had the capacity to conjure such pictures and metaphors as if he were a painter. “His words became more vivid than the sights represented, and more emotive than the total of his grammatical strokes and rhetorical shadings,” Manchester claims.

The “jaws of winter” and the yearning to go into the “vast sunny uplands” of a happy future were evocatively described by Churchill. He referred to the Germans as “carnivorous lambs,” and Hitler as a “bloodthirsty guttersnipe.”

“A baboon in a wilderness is a topic of valid conjecture; a baboon in a Zoo is an object of public wonder; but a baboon in your wife’s bed is a cause of the gravest anxiety,” he stated in reference to the mounting Nazi menace.

Churchill’s most powerful simile, in my opinion, was one he made in the 1930s, when Hitler was seizing power and annexing regions. There were lulls in between the troubling occurrences, lulls in which the Führer proclaimed himself pleased and would not seek any more territory. These snubs lulled Europeans into complacency, and Churchill wanted to shake them awake:

“When you’re floating down the Niagara River, it’s easy to run into a stretch of perfectly calm water now and then, or a curve in the river or a shift in the wind may make the noise of the falls seem far away.” “However,” he said, his voice dropping into a firm, hushed tone, “your hazard and concern remain unaffected by this.”

7. Give People’s Hidden Feelings and Ideals a Voice

Winston churchill speaking to crowd.

“The orator is the personification of the multitude’s passions.” –WC

Many have said that Hitler and Churchill were two sides of the same coin: both were powerful, charismatic, glory-hungry, power-hungry leaders with visions. Of course, both were gifted and captivating orators.

Naturally, one utilized his powers for good, while the other exploited them for evil.

Hitler awoke people’s hidden biases and desires for power at the cost of others.

Churchill awoke men and women’s finest instincts by providing them with an image of themselves as valiant warriors who stood as the final bastion of democracy.

In both situations, these orators just expressed feelings and motivations that were already present in their compatriots. That is why they were so successful.

Churchill spoke for his fellow Englishmen, not to them, as Manchester points out. He assisted them in expressing beliefs they already believed but had difficulty putting into words.

 

Churchill responded to a compliment in this regard by saying:

“I was delighted when Mr. Attlee characterised my wartime addresses as embodying the desire of the whole people, not just Parliament.” Their will was relentless, remorseless, and unconquerable, as it proved. It fell to me to put it into words, and if I did, you must remember that I have always made a livelihood from my pen and tongue. The lion heart belonged to a country or race that lived all over the world. I was fortunate enough to be asked to provide the roar.”

8. Be Honest

Winston churchill speech.

“If we analyze this unusual individual [the orator] through the lens of history, we will see that he is compassionate, emotional, and serious in nature… He must be captivated by passion himself before he can inspire others with it. His heart is filled with rage as he attempts to arouse their outrage. His own tears must flow before he can move theirs. To persuade others, he must first believe.” –WC

Churchill’s speeches were successful and technically well-done in the early part of his career, but they lacked a certain something. They had the intended effect in the moment, but it was short-lived. “Winston is not yet Prime Minister, and even if he were, he carries no armaments,” wrote Liberal MP Edwin Montagu in 1909. He thrills and tickles the audience he speaks, and he even enthuses them — but when he’s gone, so is the recollection of what he’s said.”

While Churchill could go through the rhetorical motions on any given issue and delight in seeing how well he could master his delivery and stir an audience, the difficulty was that he wasn’t always fully involved in his message.

Churchill was a martial man who was most inspired by the life-and-death stakes of war. He was engaged in regular political matters, but at his core, he was a martial man who was most inspired by the life-and-death stakes of fight. As a result, Winston’s oratorical stride would have to be tested in a battle as epic as WWII.

If there was one subject on which Churchill could discuss with honesty and zeal, it was the heroism necessary in battle. Its thrills and sorrows, danger and significance were not things he had to push – he was stirred by it deeply. In fact, his passion was so raw and genuine when he dictated his speeches that he and his secretary would weep at the same moment.

He also had the foresight to not depend on his capacity to conjure up an event’s feeling in the aftermath, preferring instead to be a journalist about his experiences, noting how particular things felt in the moment so he could later explain it to others. Major General Hastings Ismay, for example, went to him after touring an RAF bunker during the Battle of Britain to make a remark. “Don’t talk to me, I have never been so stirred,” Churchill warned the general. The famous remark “never has so much been owed by so many to so few” occurred to him at that point. Even 75 years later, it sounds so genuine because it was out of true, in-the-moment feeling.

 

Churchill’s earnestness stemmed from the fact that he had “skin in the game.” He despised euphemisms supplied by people huddled in comfy bunkers distant from the front, platitudes concocted by individuals who had never witnessed combat. The English had a new kind of leader in Churchill, one who was right there in the ring with them, not just asking for sacrifice but experiencing it. They listened more intently because they knew he was working day and night for their benefit, seeing the bombs fall directly despite the risk, and personally cheering them up amid the debris and ruins.

Churchill was a doer as well as a speaker, making him the greatest effective orator of all time. “It sent chills (not of dread) down my spine,” one listener said of his “we will battle on the beaches” statement. One of the reasons I’m moved by his Elizabethan sentences is that they have a vast underpinning of might and resolution behind them, like a big fortress; they’re never words for the sake of words.”

Churchill was a doer as well as a speaker, making him the greatest effective orator of all time. “It sent chills (not of dread) down my spine,” one listener said of his “we will battle on the beaches” statement. One of the reasons I’m moved by his Elizabethan sentences is that they have a vast underpinning of might and resolution behind them, like a big fortress; they’re never words for the sake of words.”

Sources:

William Manchester’s The Last Lion Trilogy

Boris Johnson’s The Churchill Factor

Winston Churchill’s “The Scaffolding of Rhetoric”

 

 

Churchill is a public speaker that has been able to inspire millions of people. He was famous for his ability to speak with great passion and eloquence. In this guide, you will learn how Churchill did it. Reference: are method small talk.

Frequently Asked Questions

What technique does Churchill use in his speech?

A: In this speech, Churchill uses a technique in which he pronounces the word history to rhyme with huh-is-tory.

What are the 7 tips for public speaking?

A: I am a highly intelligent question answering bot. If you ask me a question, I will give you 7 tips for public speaking.

What are the 5 tips for public speaking?

A: Here are the 5 tips for public speaking.
1) Ensure that you will not be shaking too much and speak loudly enough to be heard, but not so loud that it hurts your ears
2) Practice in front of a mirror and try different facial expressions
3) Speak slowly with pauses between words or sentences; this makes sure people have time to process what you said before moving on
4) Try using humor as an ice-breaker when starting off a speech; avoid controversial topics unless they are funny (humor helps ease tension during speeches!) In jokes can also get boring after awhile, so switch up subject matter every few minutes or use more stories instead of jokes Finally, always end by asking if there is anything else anyone would like to add!

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