Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 86) – James Humes

James Humes – American Author and Presidential Speechwriter

“Quotes can indeed wield power. A speaker who drones on at the same tempo and in the same register of voice may find his listeners’ interest waning, but a quotation in the middle of a talk is like a baseball pitcher’s change of pace. A quotation arrests the audience’s attention. It wakes them up. It energizes them. But remember: Use only one quotation per speech, and dramatize it. Stage it, perform it, act it out! Put power into your quotation!” — James C. Humes

About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
This entry was posted in Quotes for Public Speakers and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 86) – James Humes

  1. John:

    Love this Post!

    One of our goals as a Speaker is to have a “Quotable Quote” that others constantly speak and give the originator credit for.

    Example: “A great speaker, John Zimmer, whose Posts I regularly read, says,”. . .”

    Thanks, John!

    Suggestion: Have readers submit their own “Quotable Quotes.”

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks, Fred! Not sure that “great speaker” and my name belong in the same sentence, but I won’t argue with you! And, I am always open to ideas from readers about great quotes to post.


  2. Please show us a practical example of including a quote in a speech. Perhaps a video?

    • John Zimmer says:

      Hi George. Thanks for the comments. There are many examples that come to mind. A famous one comes from Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 when he declared his philosophy for the foreign policy of the United States at what was then the beginning of the 20th century. In the middle of his speech, he paused and took out a small piece of paper and said, “There is an old African saying: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.'” That line has become inextricably linked with Roosevelt. Sorry, but no video.

      I did find this video of US Senator Norman quoting John Kennedy when speaking in Congress some years back. I think that the quote was well chosen as it fed into a theme that Coleman was espousing. What is weak about the presentation, in my view, is that Coleman rushed the quote, did not put the necessary level of emotion into it that he could have, and did not pause long enough after the quote before continuing with the speech.

      And of course, there is Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in which he quotes from the Declaration of Independence and a couple of songs to great effect.

      Hope this is helpful.


  3. Show us a practical example of this in a video please!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.