powerful persuasive speeches that use repetition

The Complete Guide to Use Repetition in Speeches

All of us are very well acquainted with the speech “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr. In the speech he used the phrase “I have a dream” 8 times. He does that to emphasize the importance of integrated and united America to the audience.

What if this repetition had not been there in this speech? Do you think that this speech would have been so famous? Speeches with repetition create an enormous impact on the audience.

Repetition is a literary device that very often is used in speeches or any piece of writing. It has a profound impact on the readers or audiences. It means to repeat words, phrases, or sounds to call attention to what is being repeated.

Here’s the game plan for this article.

Why are Speeches with Repetition so Impactful?

1. It Persuades the Audience to Give the Theme Importance

Research paper by Lynn Hasher, David Goldstein, and Thomas Toppino has shown when a sentence or phrase is repeated over and over again it is considered to be the truth by the audience. This is called the illusory truth effect. This effect allows the audience to be on the same page with the speaker.

2. When we repeat words or phrases with the theme involved in them we strengthen the theme

An example could be a poem by Robert Frost, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”. The poem “and miles to go before I sleep” is repeated twice at the end. The poet wants to grab attention to death, but before death, he has responsibilities to fulfill. 

Please note: repetition along with the style of speaking and body language plays an integral role.

You can check out our articles on body language and learn about appropriate body language while delivering a speech, the link also takes you to articles that provide additional and intriguing information about body language. This information is often neglected but turns out to be crucial.  

3. It Gives Rhythm to the Speech 

Repetition is an integral part of poetry. Repetition gives rhythm or a pattern to poetry. That means with repetition in a poem or speech, the audience tries to anticipate the next words or phrases. 

The audience does that because they have seen the pattern in the poem or speech and therefore they automatically try to guess the next words. Hence making your speech interactive and interesting.    

Check out the victory speech given by Barack Obama, “yes we can”. 

4. Repetition helps in Learning and Recall

Research published by Frontier in Human Neuroscience has shown repetition helps in learning and increases memory performance for detailed and associative information. Repetition also helps in the recall of the information that is put in memory by association. 

New research by Carnegie Mellon University psychologists shows when you associate new information with previously known information chances of remembering the information increase. 

The human brain is designed in a way that information gets inside the memory when repeated. That’s also true for forming habits. A habit is formed when an activity is repeated over and over again for days.  

With repetition, you will be able to get your phrases or words inside the memory of the audience, and hence that will make people remember you and your speech. 

persuasion to use repetition in speeches

How can you Create Speeches with Repetition?

Choose the appropriate word, phrase, or sound according to your speech: 

The sound, word, or phrase for the speech which you want to repeat should be chosen such that it becomes easy for the brain to process it. 

Use smaller and simpler words and sentences to be accessible for the audience.

Let’s look at an example:

“I felt happy because I saw that the others were happy and because I knew I should feel happy, but I wasn’t really happy.”

Roberto Bolano

The word “happy” is repeated here. Happy is the fundamental word we use to connect positive feelings with.  

1. Frequency

The speech should be constructed in such a way that the repetition is spread out evenly throughout the speech. This allows the brain to process information. The clogged-up information overwhelms and confuses the audience.  

The Gettysburg address by former US president Abraham Lincoln is a good example of this.

2. Nature of Speech 

If the topic you choose to speak about is highly emotional, then the repetition can be highly frequent. It gives a dramatic effect to the speech. But if the topic is informational then the repetition if used frequently can create awkwardness.

For highly informative speeches you can use phrases or words which convey the same meaning.  The audience is likely to respond optimistically with such an approach. In such a way the audience has an impression that you have thoroughly researched and studied the topic. 

3. Familiarity

Use repetition with objects with which the audience is familiar. Studies, as mentioned above, show when you associate new information with already known information the chances of remembering it increases. 

That is how the audience will remember your speech or the information you shared even when the speech is over. 

An example could be: 

“Almost nothing was more annoying than having our wasted time wasted on something not worth wasting”

Joshua Ferris (Then We Came to the End)

This seems to be the story of every frustrated employee.  

4. Rule of 3

History says when anything is presented in a group of three it looks or sounds or is sensed complete. Did you notice what I did there?

Let’s look at some examples: 

The three wise monkeys: “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”

Fire safety slogan: stop, drop and roll 

Rights in US declaration of independence: Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

Figures of speech that use repetition: 

Numerous figures of speech use repetition according to sound, words, phrases, etc. You can understand each of them with examples and that will give you an understanding about using them in a grammatically correct way. 

Things to Keep in Mind While you are Using Repetition

1. Don’t Cram Up

When you use repetition without proper intervals or jam up information, it gets difficult for the audience to process that information. The human brain is designed to take simple information at frequent intervals.

2. Don’t Use Words Lazily

When you repeat words and phrases over and over again without any purpose or definite meaning attached to them, the audience becomes disinterested. That happens because they think you do not have a better choice of words.

For example: 

I went to the garden, she was still there in the garden, and I came back home from the garden. 

3. Don’t Use Repetition More than 5-6 Times

Studies have shown moderate to low levels of repetition can serve as a great persuasive tactic. But when it is used more than that it serves the opposite purpose. Studies say the audience seems to disagree with arguments when repetition is used excessively.  

repetition used in public speaking event

Nobody is born with the skills of King Martin Luther or Barack Obama. They practiced for hours to improve their oratory skills. So don’t be afraid of failures or mistakes, execute and make use of every opportunity you have. Learning from your failures will make you a good orator. 

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.

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