Speak Like Martin Luther King Jr: 3 Public Speaking Tips From One of the Greatest

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of history’s most amazing speakers. He had the ability to capture a crowd and inspire the masses. His words still ring of truth even today.  Because of his place in history and his strong public speaking (and it’s Black History Month), there are a few communication lessons to be learned from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

#1 Nonviolent Communication: MLK exemplifies one of the ultimate nonviolent communicators in history. Even with our everyday speech, we need to be mindful of the messages we are sending. Nonviolent communication builds powerful and respectful relationships between individuals. Turning on the television, we are bombarded with messages of violent communication (Have you ever seen Housewives of Atlanta?).  Nonviolent communication stresses revealing our feelings, attempting to not be judgmental, and using active listening.

Lesson to Be Learned:
Listen to complete thoughts before cutting people off. We have the tendency to want to jump right into conversation and voice our opinion while someone is mid sentence. When doing this, we are not giving our audience our fullest attention. We are busy trying to formulate what we will say while the other person is speaking. Listen, wait, and then speak.

#2 Confidence: As a Civil Rights leader, MLK received constant threats to his life and family. I’m sure this caused much stress and fear not only for himself, but his wife and family. Yet, he still spoke with conviction. He stood tall and delivered his message.

Lesson to Be Learned:
Despite being scared, if you truly believe in your message you will deliver it. Don’t let the fear hold you back. Think about how your audience will benefit from your presentation.

#2 Parallelism: Listen to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and you will notice the numerous uses of parallelism: repetition in sentence structure.  Using this poetic device, makes your message evident and clear to your audience.

Example from the I Have a Dream Speech:
*But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.
*One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
*One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

Lesson to Be Learned:
When giving a presentation or speech, you must know what your core message is. You should be able to communicate your message in one sentence. Weave that message throughout your presentation by using Parallelism.

What other speaking tips can we learn from Martin Luther King Jr.?

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