Monday, February 4, 2013

How Paul Harvey Can Help You Find Your Speaking Niche

Guess who's cool again? Or, perhaps for much of today's generation, cool for the first time, at least for a day or so? Yes, none other than the venerable orator/preacher/radio personality Paul Harvey.

Growing up in Iowa, Paul Harvey was on the radio twice a day, once in the morning, once at night, always speaking in his authoritative yet soothing, reassuring bass tones, first about general news of the day, then launching into one inspiring or ironic anecdote or another. Twists were his trademark, as he would tease us in the beginning, then hawk a product or two before telling us "...the rest of the story".

Today he's in the news thanks to the Dodge Ram Truck commercial during the Super Bowl. It was certainly in the Top 3 of 'Best Commercials of the Day' - and was my personal favorite. Watch it below:

Was Paul Harvey a great speaker? Or did he simply speak extremely well? Does it matter? I think it does, both for speakers coming up in the business, and those who will hire them.

Yes, he was amazing, and I loved listening to him. But he was less a professional speaker than an entertainer, a newscaster, and, ultimately, a straight up raconteur. He told stories without making a hard, obvious point - using his style to infer what he was telling us, but leaving it up to us to decide what his instruction was. Whereas today's keynoters combine telling great stories with giving clear directives, the style of Mr. Harvey was to let his audience decide for themselves what he was really saying.

This is not to downplay Paul Harvey in any way. His style was his greatness, and likely a product of his generation and upbringing.

It is also a tremendous illustration of the wide variety of opportunity public speaking offers to those who pursue it, and clarify the difference for people looking to bring public speakers in to their event.

Do you want an entertainer? A comedian? An invocator for a short minute or two (as Paul Harvey did so well)? Do you want pure inspiration, without a call to action? Do you want a spokesperson? Do you want an actor doing a monologue, even an actor coming in as, say, a dead president? If you bring a celebrity, do you care what they say beyond them telling their own story? The pendulum can swing the other way as well - perhaps what you really want is a trainer or instructor.

As a speaker, knowing what you want to be will help you find your audience, and your success that much faster. As a meeting planner, understanding precisely what type of speaker you need will increase your chances of a successful event.

Paul Harvey was a speaking treasure, and a wonderful part of the fabric of American broadcasting for decades. And it's not like he couldn't give a decent keynote with a strong call to action. Take a look at this copy of his commencement address for Wheaton College in 1961. It's just not what he's famous for - not the niche he found for himself, and his speaking talents.

How will you choose to use your voice to Speak & Deliver? You don't have to be a keynoter. You don't have to give 4 day seminar trainings. Sometimes it's enough to simply be profound for 2-5 minutes - and your audience will find you. And treasure you forever.

Below is a full example of his 'Rest of the Story' style...


  1. Grew up listening to Paul Harvey and loved "the rest of the story." The Dodge ad was my favorite too!

  2. I enjoyed listening to Paul Harvey's Rest...of the story-stories.

    Of these Rest of the story-stories I enjoyed most were the two that he recited at Easter and Christmas seasons. I still can "see" the mood in The Birdcage-story he told each Christmas.

    1. "The Man and the Birds" was for Christmas (man stays home from Christmas Eve service and learns from birds floundering in the snow why God had to come to earth in human form). It was written in December 1959 by Louis
      Cassels. The empty bird cage was "An Easter Story," and included Satan's conversation with the wrong person, Jesus, and all the essential details of Easter twisted as only Satan can do. I'm uncertain as to its author. - Gloria Merle Huffman



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