Tell them about your dream

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I heard a speech last week that included a great anecdote about MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream.” It fits perfectly into this blog. A few weeks ago, I suggested that it’s better to inspire than to explain.

Well, on that hot August day in 1963, Dr. King’s prepared remarks — though much more eloquent and urgent than anything than I’ve heard at an industry conference — were a list of talking points that explained the horrid state of civil rights for African Americans:

“…..100 years later the Negro still is not free.
One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.
So we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”

All of these were true, and all of them were worthy of mention. But few Americans in 2014 can recite these lines and or get chills when they are read aloud.

Some of his colleagues recall that about 10 minutes into the speech, he realized was losing the audience, and so did the people standing behind him. One of them, a gospel singer that saw him give a different speech to a different audience months earlier, yelled “Tell them about the dream, Martin.”

Dr. King paused, pushed his prepared notes to the side, and took the audience on a journey. Dr. King the politician took a break and Dr. King the Baptist preacher finished the speech. Insiders say that the entire “I Have a Dream” portion of the speech was recited from memory, delivered straight from the heart.

All of us in the non-profit world are working on important things, and we are all trying to pull people along to a better place. When you stand before them, giving a speech or even a presentation, you have a choice. You can click through your bullet points and read them your slides or script, or you can take them on a journey. You can drag them down into details or you can tell them about your dream.

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