Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Power of One

The Power of One

by Michael Cloud

"One is four times as powerful as two," said Karl Hess. "One is nine times as powerful as three. One is sixteen times as powerful as four."

This was not math class. Nor business. It was speechwriting.

And master speechwriter Karl Hess was teaching me. One on one.

Karl Hess was best known as Barry Goldwater's speechwriter. But he was far more than that. He was a journalist, a gunrunner, businessman, Republican activist, New Left activist, Libertarian activist, author and speechwriter.

But on this day, Karl was showing me how to prune my speech into something elegant, simple, and direct.

I was writing a speech for a client. It had clever phrases and interesting insights. But it just didn't work. Something was wrong. So I called Karl Hess, and asked for help.

"You're making six points in this speech," he said. "The audience will applaud. They'll remember that the speaker was smart and deep, but they won't remember one single thing your client says.

"Six points is too many. Too much. Every great speech has one point. One assertion. One idea. One important and unforgettable idea."

I followed Karl's advice, re-wrote it as he advised, and my client gave an unforgettable speech. The audience loved it. More than a dozen organizations invited him to give the speech to their members. He grew into a local celebrity. And he sent me eight paying customers who wanted me to write them an unforgettable speech like his. A speech people talk about.

Karl Hess taught me the power of one.

In speeches. Essays. In conversations.

Each of Aesop's fables had one point. Not two. Not three. One lesson.

The parables of Jesus. One moral. Not two. Not three. One maxim.

Allegories. Myths. Teaching tales. Each offers one truth. Not two. Not three. One.

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Excerpted from the Liberator Online
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