By Darren Lee, Team AoT
Click here to watch the speech: https://www.facebook.com/goalcast/videos/vb.897393153671209/997787536965103/?type=2&theater
Personally, my hero’s Thor. But Matthew McConaughey is very persuasive.
Continuous self-improvement. The message is crystal clear despite McConaughey having not even uttered any of these words. And he still manages to be incredibly convincing – all under a minute. How does he do it?
McConfidence. He has it. But aside from that, here are some of the powerful rhetorical tools he used.
Firstly, he relates to the audience by speaking their language. The entire speech is relayed through an anecdote, which is a short recount of a real life event, in this case of McConaughey as a kid, who was asked the question ‘who’s your hero?’ Anecdotes are like snapshots of real life, made even more relatable through his use of a technique called ‘direct speech.’
Direct speech refers to a sentence that reports speech in its original form, or essentially, using quotation marks. For example, ‘He asked me, “Who’s your hero?”’ opposed to indirect speech, which reports speech without quoting it explicitly, for example, ‘He asked me who my hero was.’ Direct speech enhances the audience’s ability to relate to the anecdote because it makes them feel like they were there when McConaughey was a young boy, receiving the question along with him.
Anecdotes and direct speech are very personable rhetorical devices, and can be used to build rapport and empathy with your audience.
Secondly, he uses pacing to create momentum and impact. Listen to the pace of his speech at the beginning of the video: it’s very quick (admittedly too fast, but he is holding an Oscar so he can do what he wants). He breezes across the narrative details, building momentum so that once he hits his punchline, boom. “It’s me in 10 years.”
McConaughey punctuates with a long, deliberate pause and bewildered expression, creating contrast and release that powers the impact of his line. We can learn from the way he incrementally tugged and pulled at our elastic attention spans, tightening and tensing slowly with a dramatic release.
Imagine if he had performed the entire speech with a robotic, constant speed: no matter how personal and moving the story, the speech would fall completely flat. Varying your pace breathes movement and life into your words, very important especially since you’re speaking to people with life.
Finally, look at his eye contact. He makes a consistent effort to engage every part of the audience with direct eye contact. Of course, this is not without the help of his McConfidence, not all of us have the gungho to look a large crowd in the eye like that, but we should all aspire towards it.
What’s even more interesting, however, is when he chooses to withhold eye contact. Take a look at around 0:33 seconds, when he momentarily looks away from the audience, pulls their attention to his repetition of ‘every day, every week, every year of [his] life,’ before shifting his gaze back toward them. He’s drawing attention to his main message – self improve is continuous. Eye contact can be used not only to engage audience members, but also to pull their attention to something.
Speaking is an art, and with all art forms there are the ‘Greats’ that we look up to and aspire toward. Matthew McConaughey’s style is second-to-none, but it can be learnt. So if, like me, his charismatic personality has become your hero, to you I say ‘Amen,’ to you I say ‘alright, alright, alright.’