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The Deceptively Simple Pattern in Popular Songs and Speeches That Makes Them So Catchy

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"Drill, baby, drill!"
"Bond. James Bond"
"Yeah baby, yeah."

Sarah Palin, James Bond, and Austin Powers walk into a bar. What they do in the rest of the joke is anybody's guess, but what they might do is raise a toast to the darned clever writers who created their catchphrases.

Many such phrases are based on set formulae. If you know the patterns, you can create sound bites to use in your own presentations.

Take a second look at those signature phrases of Sarah Palin, James Bond, and Austin Powers. You'll see that they all use the same pattern. It's just two words, arranged in a sequence of A-B-A:

  • Drill, baby, drill = A-B-A
  • Bond, James Bond = A-B-A
  • Yeah baby. Yeah! = A-B-A

The pattern is called diacope, and you'll find the same formula working in song titles ranging from "Food glorious food," right through to U2's "Sunday, bloody Sunday."

It's a simple way to slip a soundbite into a presentation.

Let's take the word "service" as an example. Here are three different ways diacope can help you deliver a service message:

  • "Customers demand service; exceptional service"
  • "Our core value is service; award-winning service"
  • "Our focus is service; proactive service"

On the page, diacope has an ugly duckling awkwardness. That's because it's meant to be said, not read. It needs your voice to breath life into the words.

If you're unused to them, some speechwriting patterns can create an impact that's like aiming a blowtorch at your audience. Good soundbites seduce or shock but never scorch! Diacope is subtle. It brings style, not scorch. It's a good toy to experiment with.

Becoming comfortable with basic structures will inject style into your speaking. Once you discover the surprisingly simple formula at work behind all those apparently darned clever soundbites, it becomes easy to build them into presentations.

Easy. Real easy.

Peter Watts is a writer and presenter. More ideas on speechwriting structures and presenting can be found on his website: The Presenters' Blog