Review of Speak Like Churchill, Stand like Lincoln by James Humes

When I give a speech, it is usually on a technical topic that I know well. My approach is usually "just do it" with some prep work of 3x5'ing key ideas for practice. Reading this book, Speak Like Churchill, Stand like Lincoln, completely changed my mind.

This book, written awhile back in 2002, is a little out dated in the advice of clothes (power point number 3). I wish it has more examples from women speakers (Margaret Thatcher was quoted a few times). Other then those minor issues, the 21 power tips are helpful. Number 12 is the best.

Here is a short summary of them:

1. Power Pause

  • Start your speech with a pause
  • Generate anticipation
  • Amplified authority

2. Power Opener

  • Do not starts with "It is a pleasure to speak at your event, thank you for inviting me...".
  • Start with something powerful


Churchill May 10, 1940, opened his talk to members of Parliament:

"I speak to you for the first time as Prime Minister in a solemn hou for the life of our country, of our Empire, of our allies and, above all, for the cause of freedom."

3. Power Presence

This is one of the chapter that did not appeal to me too much. It talked about choice of clothes, props and styles.

4. Power Point

  • "Find the message first and the words will follow" - Cato
  • Must find the one single key message and form the speech around it

5. Power Brief

  • less is more
  • tell a story, not a speech

6. Power Quote

  • Keep a collection of quotes
  • do not use unfamiliar quotes from unfamiliar authors
  • be comfortable with the quote
  • the name should be recognizable and quotations short, except if you frame a stage a unknown (personal?) quote
  • Cross quote (your opponent)

7. Power Stat

  • statistics, on their own, is not useful
  • reduce, round and relate the statistics
  • compare to the familiar

8. Power Outage

  • do not relying on props (slides, etc)

This is now pretty standard style as influenced by many Apple and TED talk presentations. The tips in the book is slightly obsolete, like "do not use pointers", but in general, use simple imagery with large caption/title only.

9. Power Wit

- Humor not jokes, humorous antidote good, stale jokes bad
- tell a humors story that you know, don't read jokes

10. Power Parable

  • parables provide picture of abstrations
  • stories, stories, personal stories

11. Power Gesture

This is about the use of non verbal cues, actions, or props.

12. Power Reading

The act of speaking is actually an act of conversation. Do not read, have a conversation. I got a lot out of this tip. Unless your speaking venue have very good teleprompter support, this "see, stop, say" technique is extremely useful:

  1. look down on your paper/iPad and take a snapshot of the text
  2. look up and pause
  3. say the words

This technique seems counterinituitive, you would think this makes the speech very slow and broken, but actually this is the most natural way. When people are having a conversation, they pause a lot. The "see-stop-say" rhythm is very natural.

To convince myself that this works, I had my 10 year old tried it while I video tape him, and it works beautifully. He used this in a recent class presentation and it worked wonderfully.

13. Power Poetry

  • speech is verse
  • speech is for the ear, so it has to be written, layed out on the page, in verse form, layout like written poetry
  • type out your speech in bit size phrases to help you set the rythm

14. Power Line

Here are five techniques to help craft a main memorable power line.
Use the acronym C-R-E-A-M :



  • There is only one answer to defeat and that is victory -- Churcill
  • Never leave that for tomorrow which you can do today -- Ben Franklin

Use these word pairs as a clue:

  • Present/Past (or future)
  • Beginning / End
  • Dark / Light
  • Mountain / Valley
  • Rich / Poor
  • Friend / Foe
  • Gain / Loss
  • Hope / Despair
  • Victory / Defeat
  • Day / Night
  • Win / Lose
  • Sunshine / Shadow
  • Turth / Lies



Injustice _anywhere_ is a threat to justice _everywhere_ -- Martin Luther King
Early to bed, early to _rise_, makes a man _healthy_, _wealthy_, and _wise_. -- Franklin

Rhyming Nine

These nine word parts are the easiest to create rhyming words:

  1. AME: aim, blame, claim, fame, name, shame, same, game, reclaim, proclaim, flame
  2. AIR: bear, care, dare, fare, fair, share, aware, swear, pare, declare, where, scare, prayer, beware
  3. ITE: bite, cite, fight, fright, height, light, night, right, quite, sight, write, delight, foresight, ignite, tonight "To do it right we need to keep our goals in sight"
  4. AKE: ache, break, fake, sake, shake, stake, take, make, awake, undertake, mistake  "Make no mistake, much is at stake in this new venture"
  5. OW: dough, flow, foe, glow, go, grow, know, low, show, slow, throw, ago
  6. AY: day, pray, stay, say, way, pay, play, away, stray, they, array, display
  7. ATE: ate, date, fate, great, late, state, slate, straight, wait, weight, abate, donate
  8. EEM: beam, cream, dream, gleam, steam, scheme, seem, stream, team, theme, esteem, redeem
  9. AIN: gain, pain, plain, reign, stain, strain, wane, vein, attain, retain, regain, explain, remain, sustain


Echo is powerful, lots of famous examples:

  • "Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country" -- JFK
  • "The only thing we hav to fear is fear itself" - Franklin Roosevelt
  • "... that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth" -- Lincoln

Three ways:

  1. Repeat a word in the second phrase that you used in the first. e.g. "God helps those that help themselves" -- Ben Franklin
  2. Repeat the noun
    "What is our aim? I answer in one word. Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be, for without victory these is no survival" -- Churchill
  3. Repeat the verb e.g. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

Alliterate and Activate

Note that consonants are better for alliteration than vowels, and the best of the consonants is "P". e.g. "Thta we shall pay any price, bear any burden..." JFK inaugural

Try looking up theaurus for alternative words to build alliteration


Search for imagery in nature (take a hike), or explore the familiar, everyday routines

15. Power Question

  • A question forces the listener to *react*, whereas a declarative sentence does not.
  • use a series of questions
  • rhetorical power: "The only question left to be settled now is this: Are women persons? -- Susan B. Anthony

16. Power Word

  • stress or emphasize one word
  • use a delierate pause before the word

17. Power Active

This is a pretty standard tip: Use active voice

18. Power Dollar

This chapter is about asking for donation. No sure this fit into the book very well, but the four D's are useful:

  • Defiance: be a little cocky -- believe you are doing your potential donor a favor
  • Design: paint a picture (of the product)
  • Donation: double what you think you should ask for
  • Duel: (like a gun fight) do not ask too soon
  • Ask your prospect for advice - a way *in*

19. Power Button

* The Power button is the phrase that illuminate the power phrase that follows

20. Power Closer

For a strong ending, Churchill said you have to appeal to the emotions:

  • Pride -- pride in the company, pride in the community, pride in one's profession or occupation
  • Hope -- a vision for the future, hope for tomorrow, new opportunities, expanded horizons
  • Love -- love of family, love of country, love of god
  • Fear (sometimes) -- the disaster that might happen if stpes are not taken immediately

Some of your best closings may come from your own experience.

21. Power Audacity

  • Surprise your audience: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall! --Reagan