Sully’s Message had zero Blah Blah Blah – Take a look

“This is the captain. Brace for impact.”

Those are the two short sentences delivered by Captain Chesley Sullenberger, “Sully,” just before his plane was about to hit the waters of the Hudson River. (Read about the incident, from 2009, here).

In Blah Blah Blah: What to Do When Words Don’t Work, the author Dan Roam writes that this is a short speech with no “blah blah blah.” It is clear, direct, impossible to misinterpret.

Yep to all of that.

In my Speech Class Refresher, I begin my session with the classic rhetorical strategies that go back to Aristotle. They include the “three primary means of persuasion:” logos, ethos, and pathos.

Let’s take a quick look at Sully’s message:

Part One: “This is the Captain.”Ethos is all about credibility. Is the speaker the person who should be delivering this message at this time? Can you trust the expertise and knowledge and intentions of this speaker? In four short words, Sully says – “I’m the one you should listen to right now.” And, my bet is that no passenger was unwilling to put down his or her magazine and listen carefully. Sully definitely had everyone’s attention.

Part Two: “Brace for impact.” — At this point, the flight attendants had given instructions on how to prepare for this moment. So, the audience had been given the needed knowledge. Now they needed to know when to act. And Sully says, “the moment has arrived. Act now!”

The words “brace for impact” are a classic “call to action,” which is what all true persuasive speeches end with. This is what you, the audience members, should do now. This is the action you should take.

Now, not everyone who gives a speech is speaking in such dramatic circumstances. But the lessons are clear –

Establish your legitimacy to speak (demonstrate your “ethos”)
Make your point crystal clear
Give a clear call to action.

This is just one of the many terrific stories in the book Blah Blah Blah. It is a book worth putting on your reading list — before your next speech or presentation.


blah-blah-blahI presented Blah Blah Blah a few years ago at the First Friday Book Synopsis. Check out my synopsis, with my handout and the audio of my presentation. Click the “buy synopses’ tab at the top of this web page.

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