What makes a great speech? Persuasion.
This is what the experts at Quantified Impressions, a firm that analyzes communications skills, report is most critical to connect with a crowd--when the crowd is college grads, at least.
Examining 31 college commencement speeches cited in the press as compelling and memorable, the firm evaluated these talks against a database of ordinary speeches and everyday conversation. The analysis included 80 different metrics. Persuasion turned out to be the metric, or variable, that the 31 speeches had most in common.
And based on that, Quantified Impressions came up with a list of 10 best speeches.
"These speeches are the best because the speakers persuade the audience to be emotionally moved," says Noah Zandan, Quantified Impressions' president.
Turns out, the best speakers persuade by doing three key things. They explain their relevance ("I was just like you"). They give insight ("Here's what life will be like"). And they use inclusive words: you, we, us, with, along.
It's no surprise who comes out on top. Oprah Winfrey's speech at Stanford five years ago actually beats her talk to Harvard grads last week.
The speech ranked No. 3 below is particularly historic this week: It's 50 years ago this month that John F. Kennedy, in the midst of the Cold War and on the heels of the Cuban Missile Crisis, startled the Soviets by offering unilateral nuclear restraint.
1. Oprah Winfrey - 2008, Stanford
2. David Foster Wallace - 2005, Kenyon
3. John F. Kennedy - 1963, American University
4. Maya Angelou - 1977, University of California, Riverside
5. Winston Churchill - 1941, Harrow School
6. Arianna Huffington - 2013, Smith
7. Oprah Winfrey - 2013, Harvard
8. Aaron Sorkin - 2012, Syracuse
Where is Steve Jobs--his famous 2005 speech at Stanford--in the Quantified Impressions rankings? No. 20.
For more on this year's best commencement speeches, see Mary Civiello's Guest Post.
If she wrote a book about OWN, Oprah Winfrey said on CBS This Morning yesterday, she could call it 101 Mistakes.
Oprah's No. 1 error? Launching her cable TV network "when we really weren't ready to launch," she confessed to best friend Gayle King and her co-host, Charlie Rose.
About her 15-month-old joint venture with Discovery Communications (DISCA), Oprah added: "Had I known it was this difficult, I might have done something else."
With MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 3, 2012 12:36 PM ET
Ever since Fortune, in 1998, started ranking the top women in business (yes, we were first), I've been asking the stars of the Most Powerful Women list how they reached the top and how they stay there. One month away from revealing our 2011 MPW rankings, now seems a good time to share some of their best career tips. Here is my Top 10:
1. Don't plan your career. Most of MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 30, 2011 10:48 AM ET
Last fall, in Oprah's Next Act, Oprah Winfrey talked about how she has learned to embrace her power.
Well, she did that today, by naming herself CEO of OWN, her new cable network that's been struggling to find its audience.
So much for the life of leisure Oprah once imagined she might have after her daytime talk show ended. ("La-di-da, I'll do a show and then I'll go have lunch with my MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 13, 2011 5:05 PM ET
Fortune and Yahoo (YHOO) are teaming up to present weekly content -- stories and videos -- about Most Powerful Women. This is the first in a series of Postcards that will appear on Yahoo and Fortune.com.
It's the start of Most Powerful Women season at Fortune Magazine.
This is the time we begin hunting in earnest for the most successful women in business around the world. Fortune launched Most Powerful Women (MPW) in MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 29, 2011 9:30 AM ET
I was on stage with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the producer and director of Miss Representation, on Friday just after the news broke that Christina Norman was out as CEO of Oprah Winfrey's new TV network, OWN.
What an odd coincidence, since Newsom's documentary explores the dearth of women in "clout positions" in the mainstream media. Newsom says that this number is 3%.
Clearly, it is getting worse.
The day before Norman, a former president MOREPatricia Sellers - May 9, 2011 2:54 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Will Oprah Winfrey's OWN be a top 10 cable network?
"Technically, I don't think in terms of being in the top 10," Oprah told me in September, before the 1/1/11 launch of her new cable network. "But do I think we will be? Yes."
Fortune's recent cover story, "Oprah's Next Act," detailed her big hopes and just-as-big fears about her new venture. Now it appears that OWN's road to the MOREPatricia Sellers - Feb 28, 2011 3:56 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Did you hear that Lady Gaga was the magazine world's No. 1 hit-maker in 2010? So says the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which found that the provocative performer sold more magazine covers last year than any other celebrity.
That got me thinking...Lady Gaga shares a trait with two other powerful women who are making news this week: Oprah Winfrey and Cathie Black, the new chancellor of New York City's MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 5, 2011 11:42 AM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Oprah Winfrey arrived on cable this weekend at long last. And I do mean long.
When I interviewed Oprah in her Chicago office a few months ago, she pulled a piece of paper out of her desk drawer. It was a note, scrawled in pencil, that Stedman Graham, her boyfriend, wrote to her when they were on vacation together in April 1992. Oprah had never shared the note with MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 3, 2011 12:48 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
This week, TIME Magazine presents the 25 Most Powerful Women of the Past Century.
Interesting that TIME, Fortune's sister magazine at Time Inc. (TWX), includes just two businesswomen on its list. Both -- Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey -- are entrepreneurs. Since her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO), is struggling these days, Martha didn't make this year's Fortune Most Powerful Women list. Oprah, whose power keeps expanding and MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 22, 2010 12:12 PM ET
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