The Secret of the Inspirational Speech: From Descriptive to Generative

How would you like to inspire your next audience like your favorite clergyman, coach, or keynote speaker?

Well you can with my latest lesson: The Secret of the inspirational Speech – From Descriptive to Generative

It is said that the inspirational speech is the highest form or oratory. It ranges from a clergyman delivering a sermon to a coach giving a pep talk to a keynote address at a convention, to eulogies, anniversaries and dedications.

There are 5 qualities and one secret that distinguish the inspirational speech from other types of verbal communication:

5 Qualities That Differentiate an Inspirational Speech from Other Speeches

  1. It reflects the beliefs, values and sentiments of the audience. In a way, you are preaching to the converted,
  2. It expresses the general feelings of the audience,
  3. It uplifts those feelings of the audience,
  4. The speaker projects confidence – she has an absolute unwavering belief in her  message, and
  5. It uses word pictures to dramatize and raise the emotions of the audience to a higher plane.

One Secret that Differentiates an Inspirational Speech from Other Speeches

Change your language use from Descriptive to Generative.

  • Descriptive Language, sometimes called narrative, uses language to depict or represent things as they are, or have been. You are describing. It is used to look back, spot trends, and predict what will happen.  It is useful and important if you are trying to navigate New York City without a map, or ordering dinner without a menu.

However, Descriptive Language has its limitations – you can’t create something new merely by describing what was or is. The best you can do is predict what the future will bring based on past events. This is what the media is attempting to do now when they are describing the current economy. They are predicting what will happen based on past cycles.  It’s Descriptive or narrative, not Inspirational.

  • Generative language, also called future-based language, has the power to create new futures, new visions and eliminate the blinders that keep people from seeing new possibilities.

The term Generative, or future-based language, comes for the book: The Three Laws of performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan.

If you want to inspire others – you have to change your language from Descriptive to Generative.

Let’s take a look at three historical examples of Generative Language.

Example 1:

President John F. Kennedy’s “Moon Speech” on September 12, 1962:

“But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun–almost as hot as it is here today–and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.”

In this speech, John F. Kenney is saying that by the end of the decade, we will land a man on the moon and return him safely. At the time of his speech, the United States had just begun flying men around the Earth and the United States was trailing the Soviets in space exploration. Flying to the moon seemed impossible. But, that possibility was created with this generative language. Our country got behind this idea, and on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

Example 2:

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963:

“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

As evidenced in the excerpt above, none of the things that Dr. King described in his speech existed at the time. Racial segregation was the reality. Forty-five years later, the United States elected the first African-American president.  Dr. King enrolled a lot of other people into his dream.

Example 3:

President Ronald Regan’s “Tear Down this Wall” speech on June 12, 1987:

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

The setting for this speech was The Berlin Wall at Berlin’s 750th anniversary celebration.  A wall divided Germany into East and West Germany. In President Ronald Regan’s speech, “Tear Down this Wall”, he made this generative speech

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin wall came down. On October 3, 1990, Germany was reunified.


Generative Language is the key to inspirational messages. Future-based, Generative Language, has the proven power to create new futures and transform the world.

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