The backstory for this quote is fascinating, both the story of the writing of the hymn, and then the story of its use at the height of World War II. in fact, i would say the backstory is what gives the quote its real impact in its implications for us today. I probably did an hour of research after I found this quote, and I am SO GLAD I did - my own life is better for knowing this, and I'm happy I was able to share it.
Do as much research as you can on the story behind and around your quote. More than just who said it, who were they? Where was this said or written? What other things did they say ore write? what connections can you draw from their life or circumstance? what did other people say about it?
The quote itself, of course is from one of the great orators of the 20th century, so it has power on its own. But when that's spoken with the same conviction it was said originally, hundreds of people can be stirred by it again.
You can see the second explanation is pretty short. Essentially the task here is to provide that final connection between the life and world of the quotation itself, into the lives of your listeners. My goal was to draw a comparison between the circumstances of war as it was fought then, and the spiritual war we're fighting now.
As a side note, this is the beginning and middle of the second of my 3 points in this speech. Transition-by-quote is an awesome way!
like you mean it
It sometimes helps to read or listen to great speeches of the past as you're preparing. There's a reason these are great speeches, and that doesn't dim over time, regardless of how antiquated some of the words might seem. You've been given the rare opportunity to have the undivided attention of your listeners (10 or 1,000, doesn't matter), and you can change them forever by what you say. Connect your words to the WHY and the HOW - to them.
One of the finest speeches I've ever heard was given by Suze Orman, the author and personal finance expert. She talked about personal finance, sure, but also about self-direction, self-love and perseverance, and I was moved to tears by the end. Not only is she a great speaker, but she was able to connect ideas for me, and sent me home a stronger person for it. And she was talking about checkbooks. Your topic isn't dull, and neither are you. Prepare it like you mean it, and say it like you mean it, and they'll remember.
Save the Opening for last
In your preparation, I recommend saving the opening for last. Here's mine:
My 5th great grandparents, Caroline and John Butler, were baptized in 1835 in Simpson, Kentucky. At the Prophet Joseph’s command, they gathered to unite with the Saints in Iowa, and then in Nauvoo. They crossed the plains and finally gathered to Utah, where they settled in Spanish Fork. They faced persecution and poverty, and remained stalwart to the end. So with all our ancestors, literal, or spiritual. It is in that spirit - that legacy of gathering, of love, of unity, that I would like to speak today.
I actually wrote this opening about 10 minutes before I stood up to give my speech (not that I would recommend saving it THAT much). The last line of your first paragraph is the key transition from opening to the core of your speech. Here's where you say, "I'd like to provide three tips on how to improve your racquetball game." I was a little subtler, but connected the small story to the topic right there at the end of the opening.
Make sure your opening doesn't weaken your speech. If it does nothing but "make the audience more comfortable," leave it out. As far as an opening joke, if your audience doesn't know you well, you have a 50/50 chance of a joke falling flat, and I wouldn't risk it. Your opening should take no more than ~10% of your speech. So for a 10-minute speech, think 45-60 seconds. And now for the most important bit, which I've saved for last.
DON'T EVER APOLOGIZE
We were actually in the car on the way to church while she was trying to figure out her opening (hm, did she inherit that?). And I've been thinking for days about this exchange.
I said, "Maybe just introduce yourself, and then go into your first thing."
She said, "What about, 'Hi, I'm Rowen Sprague. I am giving my first talk in church, so I know it isn't...'"
"No. Don't apologize."
She tried it another way, "'Hi, I'm Rowen Sprague, and I don't know why I was asked...'"
She was frustrated when I interrupted her again. "You don't ever need to apologize for what you are about to say."
As women, it's a sort of social instinct to make ourselves less - maybe it feels ingratiating, or polite, or that if we lower ourselves by apologizing for our work, we'll lower their expectations of us. But no. They won't like you better because you told them your stuff was crappy. You own that stuff, you have a right to be where you are, you're prepared for it, and you have a message to deliver. You didn't come share this just for their approval. Don't hide your light.
I mean it. This goes for any time you stand up in front of more than 2 people, write on your blog, post a photo in an online gallery, or talk in a meeting. You can never use any of these phrases ever again:
- "I know this isn't..."
- "I didn't..."
- "I'm sorry, but/because"
- "I can't (insert some technology reason)"
- "I did this at the last minute" (or any reference to how little time you had, or even how much time you had, but that it still isn't any good for whatever reason)
- Blaming your own shyness
- Blaming your own inexperience at presenting/speaking/showing up "I'm not very good at..."
- Blaming anyone else, even as a sort of joke (i.e. the boss told me I had to)
- Comparing yourself or your presentation/material a great master.
Okay, I think you get it. Yes? You are not more by seeming less. You are more by preparing with that audience in mind, and then delivering with conviction. Don't hide your light. And don't ever, ever, EVER apologize for it.