The premise for the movie (and the speech) is pretty simple: Pacino is the coach of a once-great football team that is now riddled with injuries and internal dissension, and is struggling to make the playoffs.
Prior to the big game, Pacino has to give a speech to his players that will motivate them to put aside their differences and work together as a team.
It’s a wonderfully crafted speech and delivered perfectly by Pacino. It’s no wonder that he is widely recognized as one of the best actors of his generation. Have a look and then we’ll discuss it.
Powerful stuff. And don’t kid yourself – there is a lot in there that we can use in our own speeches. (Except, perhaps, the locker room language, although you never know when the situation will call for it.)
Here are some of the things that I noted:
- Pacino takes the team on a roller coaster of emotions. He starts slowly and builds to a crescendo before taking his players down again. He then takes them up and down twice more. Audiences want to go on a journey. Take them.
- He repeats the key word in the speech – “inch” – not once, not twice, but 13 times. Repetition is a powerful tool to drive home your message.
- He uses “triples” – sets of three similar phrases or words – at least four times: 1:15, 2:15, 2:20 and 3:20. Using triples is a powerful technique to make an idea stick in your audience’s mind.
- He speaks with genuine emotion and exposes himself on the human level.
- He has great eye contact.
- He uses well-timed gestures: “We claw with our finger nails for that inch!”
- Pacino uses contrasts to create powerful lines: hell and the light; winning and losing; living and dying.
- He uses simple words.
- He ends with a call to action: “What are you gonna do?”
Those are some of the thing that made the speech memorable for me.
Suggestions? Well, I know that it was scripted this way for the movie, but I would not have had Pacino holding his play sheet. If you watch the video again, you will see that there are times when he is passing the paper from hand to hand and otherwise playing with it. Not a major thing, to be sure, but some might find it distracting.
Before concluding, I would like you to do one more thing. Below is the text of Pacino’s speech. I’d like you to play the video again but read along with the text. Note how I have written it.
That is how you should write out your speeches.
Winston Churchill said that a speech is poetry without form or rhyme. He believed that it should not be written for reading, but rather for the way the audience will hear it. In memorable phrases.
Note the words that end each line below. They are almost all significant and the pauses that follow them allow the ideas to sink in.
Even if you do not read your speech, crafting it this way will help you formulate your ideas, choose the right words and deliver them with the right cadence, emotion and emphasis.
Try it for your next speech. I promise that you will notice a difference.
I don’t know what to say really.
to the biggest battle of our professional lives,
all comes down to today.
we heal as a team,
or we’re gonna crumble.
Inch by inch,
play by play,
till we’re finished.
We’re in hell right now, gentlemen.
we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us.
we can fight our way back … into the light.
We can climb out of hell.
One inch, at a time.
Now, I can’t do it for you.
I’m too old.
I look around, I see these young faces and I think,
I made every wrong choice a middle age man can make.
I pissed away all my money, believe it or not.
I chased off anyone who’s ever loved me.
And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror.
You know, when you get old in life,
things get taken from you.
That’s part of life.
But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff.
You find out life’s this game of inches.
So is football.
Because in either game,
life or football,
the margin for error is so small.
One half step too late or too early,
and you don’t quite make it.
One half second too slow, too fast,
you don’t quite catch it.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They’re in ever break of the game.
Every minute, every second.
On this team, we fight for that inch.
On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch.
We claw with our finger nails for that inch!
Because we know,
when we add up all those inches,
that’s gonna make the fucking difference between winning and losing!
Between living and dying!
I’ll tell you this:
In any fight,
it’s the guy who’s willing to die
who’s gonna win that inch.
And I know,
if I’m gonna have any life anymore,
it’s because, I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch
Because that’s what living is!
The six inches in front of your face!
Now I can’t make you do it!
You gotta look at the guy next to you.
Look into his eyes!
Now I think
you’re gonna see a guy who will go that inch with you.
You’re gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team
because he knows when it comes down to it,
you’re gonna do the same for him.
That’s a team, gentlemen.
And, either we heal – now! – as a team!
Or we will die as individuals.
That’s football guys.
That’s all it is.
Now, what are you gonna do?