Do It! Marketing Blog: Marketing for Smart People™

Persuasive Speech Topics: 7 Lessons from Andy Rooney

persuasive speech topics rooneyAs a marketing speaker and marketing coach, the question often arises about how to deliver persuasive speech topics effectively. 

This week, we lost one of the great journalists of our time, Andy Rooney. As a side note, there is a strong case to be made that Andy Rooney was the very first video blogger - and certainly the first man to produce viral videos. You can see some examples here and here and a CBS-produced retrospective here

So as you're crafting your next persuasive speech topic, here are seven lessons from Andy Rooney to inspire your preparation and increase your effectiveness...

1. Start strong - don't waste a lot of time in the wind-up. Begin like a good courtroom lawyer and come out swinging with no doubt as to your position and perspective.

2. Use specific examples we can all relate to. Model your favorite stand-up comedian: "Don't you hate it when..." "How come that every time you..." or "The thing that makes me crazy about ABC is XYZ." Specificity sells your ideas - and in the case of comedians, it also adds humor.

3. Go negative when it makes sense. And it almost always makes sense. Yes, when it comes to marketing and persuasion, some people will tell you to plant yourself firmly in the world of aspirations, dreams and goals. I disagree - the sound bite is "If you're going to sell fire extinguishers, first show the fire." Sell their problem - then you can sell your solution.

4. Don't be afraid to share your opinions on the facts, not just the facts. Yes data is important - but it's emotion that sells. Andy Rooney always had plenty of emotion behind his comments - and he often tapped into yours. Spark an emotional reaction and you'll quickly separate your supporters from your detractors. And when you're trying to persuade, it's the middle of the road where you find the roadkill. 

5. Don't let the critics get you down. As I always say to my audiences as a marketing speaker, "if you don't risk turning some people off, you'll never turn anybody on." If you are working on a persuasive speech topic that is selling an emotionally charged idea or one that requires your audience (prospects, colleagues, boss) to take a leap of faith, you will have to deal with critics, skeptics, haters and even some saboteurs. Take it all in stride and understand what my friend, motivational speaker Marvin LeBlanc likes to say - "You ain't nobody 'til somebody hates you."

6. Charm will go a long way. Even at his most ornery moments, Andy Rooney always had a twinkle in his eye. Yes, he could be sarcastic, negative, nasty even... but although he took his subject matter seriously, he never took himself too seriously. And his good-natured charm showed through his most acidic banter, sarcasm, and negativity. It set a unique contrast. It was effective for him and it might be effective for you.

7. Share your passions. Persuasive speech topics are nothing without the persuasion - so once you've made your case, don't be afraid to go positive in a strong way and share what you love, what you believe in, and what you want your audience to believe in. One of the greatest examples from Andy Rooney is this piece in honor of newspapers.

Andy's obituary in today's New York Times concluded like this:

Mr. Rooney frequently said he considered himself “one of the least important producers on television” because his specialty was light pieces. “I just wish insignificance had more stature,” he once said.

But he put things in perspective in his 1,097th and last regularly scheduled “60 Minutes” appearance.

“I’ve done a lot of complaining here,” he said then, “but of all the things I’ve complained about, I can’t complain about my life.”

Thanks, Andy - for showing us how to persuade, how to spread your ideas, and how to have a great time doing it.

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