Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Greatest Thumb Sucking Orator in History

Earlier this week, I was very excited about the post I planned for Christmas Eve. It was going to be an analysis of Linus' speech from A Charlie Brown Christmas, with the accompanying YouTube video. What a cool idea. So cool, in fact, that my friend and fellow coach beat me to it by a couple of days. So, while I spend today coming up with something else cool for tomorrow, enjoy what John Zimmer has to share with you!
During Christmas, one of the things that my family and I like to do is watch the classic shows of the season: “A Christmas Carol”; “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (see previous post!); “It’s a Wonderful Life”; and more. One of our favourites is “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.
At one point in the show, Charlie Brown, exasperated at the commercialism that has kidnapped Christmas, cries out: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!?” It is then that Linus goes on stage and delivers a 45-second speech in which he gives Charlie Brown his answer.
As I watched the show, it occurred to me that there is a lot that we can learn from this little speech by a cartoon character. Let’s have a look.

So, what did Linus do well as a speaker? Plenty!
  • He understood that his speech had to be relevant to his audience. Charlie Brown was trying to understand the meaning of Christmas, and Linus addressed the issue. His message was also relevant for the other kids (and Snoopy) who were getting caught up in the materialistic side of the season.
  • He was not afraid to ask the technician to adjust the lights. Good speakers know that things such as lighting and sound should be adjusted to enhance their speeches and not detract from them. Now, some might say that Linus should have checked this out in advance; however, as this was an impromptu speech, I hardly think he can be faulted.
  • He told a story.
  • He was confident enough to deliver his speech without PowerPoint.
  • He used great gestures to emphasize his points. For example: 0:25 (“And lo!”); 0:28 (“And the glory of the Lord …”); 0:31 (“And they were sore afraid”); 0:38 (“… tidings of great joy …”); 0:44 (“… a Saviour …”); and more.
  • He used vivid facial expressions (well, for a cartoon at least) to convey different emotions such as fear, joy and happiness. He even imitated the infant sleeping in the manger!
  • He had good vocal variety.
  • He had great eye contact with the audience. (I realize that there was nobody in the seats and all the kids were in the wings, but you know what I mean.)
  • He used pauses to emphasize key points.  He did not rush at all.  Two examples: 0:36 (“Fear not! [pause] For behold, I bring you …”); and 0:47 (“And this shall be a sign unto you: [pause] You shall find the babe …”).
  • Finally, Linus kept his speech short and memorable. He did not drone on and on. He made his point quickly and well, and then got off the stage.
Is there anything that Linus could have done better? Well, he was stationary the whole time and might have used the stage a bit more. Also, he should have left his blanket off stage as some might have found it distracting. To his credit, however, he did throw it away at 0:35. And, to be fair, he is Linus and Linus without his blanket is like Batman without his cape.
On the whole, Linus did a great job and we can all learn a thing or two from him.

1 comment:

  1. What's the old saying, RIch? Great minds think alike and fools seldom differ! Thanks much for the reprint of my post. It is great to see it on your blog.

    All the best to you and your readers for a Merry Christmas and a happy and successful 2010!

    John Zimmer



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