Posted by: magnussonllc | August 15, 2009

Pimp My Presentation – Anaphora

If we think about some of the greatest speeches in history, we can see that there are certain devices used to push a point home. These devices give any piece of writing an impact that leaves us breathless and saying, “Wow!” They are simple and effective, if used wisely and sparingly. One or two of these devices in a presentation or speech will make the piece even stronger.

In rhetoric, an anaphora (Greek: ἀναφορά, “carrying back”) is a rhetorical device that consists of repeating a sequence of words at the beginnings of neighboring clauses, thereby lending them emphasis. The repetition can be as simple as a single word or as long as an entire phrase.

Notice how John F Kennedy uses an anaphora when announcing the death of Martin Luther King:

What we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness; but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country whether they be white or whether they be black.”

Another famous exemple is Winston Churchills using it in one of his speeches during the battle of Britain:Churchill-ad

“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Anaphora creates parallelism, lends rhythm to the lines, and stresses the word or the phrase that is being repeated. It’s a good way to intensify emotions in a speech or a presentation by repeating a certain poignant statement or phrase

 Franklin D Roosevelt also uses an anaphora during his Pearl Harbor address:

“Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.”

Try using this devices as a natural piece of your presentations and they will become more rhythmic and your statements will have bigger impact. The focus points and key learnings  will be restated and easier to remember. However, just as with other rhetorical devices, don’t overuse anaphora. There will be a risk of sounding too theatrical.


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